Thursday, October 08, 2009

No Moisture for Perseverance

Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. ~ Luke 8:6
I have only one plant in my house because I am terrible about watering them. This morning I felt like God said I'm not so good at making sure I get watered myself. Oh, sure. I attend church weekly. I'm in a small group. Bible study and chatting with God are a natural part of my daily life. So why did I want to quit all the good stuff I'm involved in and just exist like a fake piece of greenery yesterday?

When the one plant I have starts getting brown edges on the leaves, I know it's lacking moisture. No matter how much determination that little plant may have, if it doesn't get water, it won't survive.

The same is true for me. Moisture comes in different ways. I'm an introvert (yeah, really I am). My mistake is thinking that all I need to persevere, is more solitude. Truth is, solitude is like fertilizer for me. If I don't get moisture with the fertilizer, I burn out.

Over application of ... just about any fertilizer ... can easily lead to soluble salts injury.
Excessively high soluble salts hurt garden plants by causing root burn.
The burning reduces the ability of roots to absorb water and nutrients. ~

Moisture flows into me through other people. As much as I would like to sit quietly reading all day or hide behind my laptop like a cut flower, I need to experience the Holy Spirit flowing through me to and from others. That doesn't happen with just any group of people and those who stir the Spirit in me sometimes surprise me.

The point is we need moisture and we don't generate that moisture in ourselves. God has designed us to need each other. He created us to be part of a complex root system. Jesus prayed that we would be one just like he and the Father are one (John 17:22).

As much as I would like for my struggle to be about whether I want to keep my roots deep into the intellectual element of God's word and personal relationship with him alone, that's not the question God posed to me this morning. His question is more like: Am I willing to get the moisture he routes through others so that I can persevere?
"A plant is only as good as its own root system" ~ The Mustard Seed Landscape and Garden Center

Sunday, October 04, 2009

"Renting Lacy - A Story of America's Prostituted Children" by Linda Smith with Cindy Coloma

I have been reading about human trafficking for about a year. Like most hot topics, there is a broad spectrum with plenty of statistics; then there is the details that move a person to action - or at least the desire to act.

Linda Smith's previous book, From Congress to the Brothel, was eye opening for me. This book is... disturbing. Yes, disturbing, as true stories of young girls being used for pleasure and profit should be. Disturbing in a way that will not allow me to live my life the same after having this information.

Nancy Winston, a Shared Hope International National Awareness Board Member, put it this way: "Once you know, you can no longer not know!"

This book will introduce you to a world that might seem fictitious. You will learn terminology that you would like to think is only used in a Hollywood movie script. You will meet young girls whose life has been taken yet they continue to survive a brutal existence. How they got there. How it could happen to your child or your child's best friend. And perhaps most shocking, you will meet those who pay for sex and the ineffectiveness of procedures currently in place to stop the crime.

Smith and Coloma have written this book in the form of a novel which allows the reader to get to know the characters and picture the scenes. Commentary is added at the end of chapters to help the reader understand the reality of the story. This atrocity is happening in communities throughout the U.S.  The Foreward quotes a police commander as saying "the only way not to find this problem in any community is simply not to look for it."

You will see implicitly in the story and then explicitly in the Commentary:
  • "Why is it in America?" 
  • "How Children Get Abducted"
  • "How Does It Happen?" - how are children persuaded to do what they do
  • "Who Buys a Child?"
  • "Who are the Children Trafficked for Sex?"
  • "What's Happening in Our Legal System?"
  • "Why Don't They Leave?"
The book ends with hope. Hope which comes from the story being told as well as what organizations such as Shared Hope are doing and what you can do. The final pages list "Next Steps" which call for a change in laws and a change in the general populations perspective of this crime.

If you only read one book a year, make this the book. It's 163 pages that will change the way you think each time you see the picture of a child on a missing person report or hear of a runaway. It might even cause you to truly love the children around you more.

You can receive a free copy of this book with a donation to Shared Hope International. Please, make a donation. Help prevent, rescue and restore women and children from the commercial sex trade industry.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Feeling ineffective?

For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ 2 Peter 1:8
The adventure of life comes from knowing that we are participating with God. He provides everything. So why do we sometimes feel ineffective and unproductive?

Second Peter 1:5-7 lists eight qualities that will keep us from being ineffective if we continue to grow in them throughout life.
  • Faith (what God reveals) - God reveals things to us, not necessarily unique to us but things that are to be shared.

  • Goodness (the stuff we do because of what we believe is true) - Faith without goodness is just a dream that goes nowhere.

  • Knowledge (more than an opinion) - God provides resources to learn. Without adding knowledge, faith becomes weak fiction of our imagination.

  • Self-control (thinking before acting) - God must lead. I must follow otherwise the things God reveals take the path of human reasoning.

  • Perseverance (sticking with it) - Our own determination won't keep us going. It's easy to quit if its just about me and what I want. To be effective, we must accept the struggle of self-control.

  • Godliness (all the characteristics of God) - It's God's character that makes any effort productive. Self-control and perseverance bring about godliness. We can't impress others with who we are for very long. Godliness draws people to God.

  • Brotherly Kindness (working as a family) - This is the natural mentoring that happens between siblings. Appreciation, respect, care and working together for the sake of the family name.

  • Love (considering the best for others) - Love draws people to each other and is the source of strength for every other quality in this list: love of God, love for God, and love for others.
Basically, being effective in work and life comes down to this: God reveals, we respond and draw closer to him - causing others to experience faith.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What if...

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. ~ Luke 4:1-2
Jesus had just experienced the Holy Spirit descending on him in bodily form and the voice of God (possibly audible) proclaiming his relationship, love and feelings towards his Son.

How would our life as followers of Christ be different if we went away for 40 days after a believer's baptism to attempt to grasp the relationship, love and feelings of God. What if this were a normal part of our culture? What if employers expected this and had learned that those who do this return to work more productive?

How might this look in your life today? Maybe it's not a desert. Maybe it's not solitude for you. How might the Holy Spirit want to lead you in conditioning yourself to live not on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord? (Luke 4:4 and Deuteronomy 8:3)

What if this generation paved the way for this to be normal?

Monday, September 21, 2009

What should we do?

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

"What should we do then?" the crowd asked. John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely--be content with your pay." ~ Luke 3:7-14
John was speaking to the Jewish people: God's people chosen to reveal Christ to the world. It is interesting that John doesn't tell them to go out baptizing others for the forgiveness of their sins - which is what he is doing (v 3). But he very strongly instructs them to "produce fruit."

There is a lot in these few verse but here's a bit of what I got excited about:

Being a child of God...
  1. is up to God (v8 God can raise up children out of stones if he wants)
  2. is an active role, not a seat or position (v8 being able to say "I'm a child of God" is not the point)
  3. indicates that we produce fruit or get out of the way (v9 trees w/o fruit will be cut down and burned up)
  4. is a natural part of everyday living (vv10-14 crowd - share basic necessities of life; tax collectors - be fair, not greedy in your work; soldiers - don't use your position inappropriately, be honest, be content with your pay)
So, what should we do to reveal Christ to the world?

What are you doing to prepare the way for the Lord to draw people to himself? What paths are you helping to straighten? What valley in another person's life can you fill in?
As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: "A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God's salvation.'" ~ Luke 3:4-6
I think baptizing and discipling those who don't yet know Christ will follow naturally when we, as children of God, follow John's advice.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

First, seek the Kingdom

So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' ... your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ~ Matthew 6:31-33
This verse came to mind recently after praying for physical healing using the Vineyard Prayer Model.

Through Vineyard teaching, I have discovered the fascinating truth that Jesus taught us to pray for God's kingdom to come right now, for his will to be done right now just as it is in the heavenly realm right now. For whatever reason beyond my human comprehension, God chooses to make that happen through his people.

I used to think praying for healing was like asking God for a favor. Then I progressed into the determination that God heals so that people will see he is God. I'm now seeing how bringing his kingdom to earth is the ultimate desire of his heart.

In God's kingdom there is no sickness, no hunger, no sorrow. When we pray and seek to bring God's kingdom into our current circumstances, all these things are a natural part of that kingdom.

Are you seeking the kingdom when you pray? It's much more exciting than asking for a favor.
His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires. 2 Peter 1:3-4

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Operation Freedom

I wait for your salvation, O Lord, and I follow your commands. Psalm 119:166
My husband has inspired me to watch his favorite series, Band of Brothers. Earlier this week I attended a deployment ceremony for the 16th Engineer Brigade, Ohio Army National Guard. Perhaps these activities are why the verse above created a picture of a military unit in battle, ready to engage at the word of the commanding officer.

According to New Bible Dictionary (3rd edition, IVP), salvation's "basic meaning is 'bring into a spacious environment' but it carries from the beginning the metaphorical sense of 'freedom from limitations' and the means to that; i.e. deliverance from factors which constrain and confine."

One of the speakers at the deployment ceremony pointed out that every one of those men and women who were headed for Iraq had chosen to enlist or re-enlist since 9-11. Their goal is Operation Iraqi Freedom. Most likely none of them were born in Iraq or have any natural relationship to those who are suffering there. Yet they have volunteered to limit their own freedom for the purpose of providing "freedom from limitation" to the people of Iraq and ultimately the world.

I can't help but picture Jesus in the same way.
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who being in very nature God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross! Philippians 2:5-8
Thank you to all soldiers - current, past, and future - who being in very nature a US citizen, did not consider your liberty here something to cling to, but made yourself soldiers and being found in appearance as such, subjected yourself to a potentially brutal death for the sake of freedom for all.

Thank you, Jesus, for choosing to be our commanding officer in Operation Humanity Freedom. May we each do our part to bring justice - freedom from limitations - both in the natural and supernatural world we live in today.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Don't throw away your confidence!

Last weekend's message at Vineyard Columbus was "Who May Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?" Today's follow-up study on that message is from Hebrews 10:19:39. Powerful!!

There are so many things I assume I understand more than I actually do. Over the past few years God has been revealing amazing stuff. Very little of it is totally new but it brings about a newness in me that I can't fully express.

The Hebrews passage was very exciting to me this morning. I've lived with the idea that "we are hidden in Christ." Some have explained that as "When God looks at us, he sees Jesus, not us because we are so sinful." That's not true! God sees us! He sees me! He sees you!

That "hidden" teaching is based on Colossians 3:3: "For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God."

Why do we chop up scripture so much? The first part of that verse says "you died." The verse right after it says "When Christ, who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory." It doesn't say we'll be standing behind Christ. That life died like the sacrificial lamb of the Old Testament. It's gone!

Hebrews 10 tells us that the blood of Christ cleansed us. In the Old Testament, the blood of the sacrificed animal was only a representation of what was to come. It reminded the people of how serious their sin was to God but the curtain remained which protected the sinful people from the wrath of a Holy God.

That curtain which separated the Holy of Holies from the sinful lives of God's people is gone! That is a literal fact. It tore in two when Jesus died on the cross. Think on that a bit. We can now approach God without fear. Why? Because Jesus died for us yes but there is more.

If we accept Jesus as our sacrifice - our payment for the self-centered, God-denying life we were born with - then we must also be willing to let that life be buried with Christ in the tomb. But wait there's more!

Christ came back to life but it wasn't the same life he had before - the physical body was very much the same but his new life was very different. This is the foundation of our hope which we experience in part as soon as we allow our old sinful nature to be buried with Christ! We are a new creation now (2 Cor 5:17).

A child who hides behind a stronger person lives in fear and/or shame. Jesus doesn't block God's view of "who we really are" as some might think. Jesus opened up a new and living way for us to stand in God's presence. We can approach God, the Creator, the Almighty. Think on that!! You can approach God with the confidence that his holiness will not destroy you. But you can't approach him with the life of sin. Leave it buried. Approach God with the new life you received from Christ.
If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. ~Heb 10:26-27
If you aren't excited about this stuff, then I haven't explained it very well. Go read Hebrews 10 (especially verses 19-39). Picture each segment in your mind. Picture the temple of the Old Testament, the area designated as the Holy of Holies, the huge curtain that separated God's holy presence from the unholiness of his chosen people, the Priest who entered this area with a rope tied around him in case he died in the presence of God's holiness. Now picture yourself freely and confidently approaching God.
So don't throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. ~Heb 10:35-36
If you are a follower of Christ who has not experienced water baptism by immersion, I challenge you to pray about being baptized. It might help you understand the significance of being buried with Christ and raised to new life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Talking to God with Others

"What place does authentic encounter... occur more clearly than when two or three are gathered together in the name of Christ with Christ present as promised...?" ~ Bruce M. Hartung
Are you more likely to be authentic in a group of two or three or a group of four or more?

Some larger groups can have very authentic relationships. But it's more common that in a group of four or more, some are being authentic while others are left to manage their struggles and celebrate victories alone.

Bruce Hartung points out in "Praying Together vs. Private Prayer" that although private prayer is essential to our relationship with God, it is easy to protect ourselves with God. We need to be in vulnerable relationships with other people. And, we need to bring the authentic relationship with God into our relationship with others.

I don't think I'm the odd one when I say that my words are self-censored when there are more people in the conversation. Ok, yes, sometimes I forget to censor and I end up regretting it because there is not enough of a relationship or time to interpret my words with everyone. A smaller group generally creates a more comfortable environment to share differing opinions or personal struggles which lead to quicker resolution.

In my experience, the most powerful prayer groups break down into groups of two or three at least for the asking of God part of prayer. For most of us, this is extremely awkward and is probably one reason people don't want to go to prayer groups. However, once you experience that intimacy in a group of just two or three people who are truly seeking the presence of God together, you'll be hooked. There are no words to describe it.

There are times in large groups when someone's prayers seem to move us in some spiritual sense. However, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 20:47, those types of prayers usually stir up more awe of the person speaking than awe of God. The God-awe inspiring large group prayers generally contain a lot less words. And the significant cries of a person's heart are generally spoken only in the presence of one or two others who are all seeing God right there in that little circle.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ~ Psalm 51:17
My challenge to you (and to me), push through the awkwardness. Find just one or two other people who want to talk freely to God with you and see what happens.

Vulnerable Moment of Confession: I have only truly experienced what I'm talking about in this post a few times - so it's more than just the number. But it is those few experiences which give me hope and determination to try to be authentic and find others who are also trying to be authentic in prayer with others. It doesn't happen naturally for most of us. And, it's not for the sake of the experience but for the sake of the relationship with God and with others. For it is the supernatural connection of genuine relationships, not the experience itself, which sustains me.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

All authority or all dried up?

Then God said, "Let us make people in our image, to be like ourselves. They will be masters over all life – the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the livestock, wild animals, and small animals." So God created people in his own image; God patterned them after himself; male and female he created them. God blessed them and told them, "Multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Be masters over the fish and birds and all the animals." ~ Genesis 1:26-28 NLV
Ann Spangler in Praying the Names of God asks, "How would your life change if you lived with the constant awareness that he created you to bear his image?"

I've often been taught that we are stewards of the earth but today this scripture made me realize that God had something greater in mind. We are made in his image and given dominion. God intended for man to have authority over all creation as if we were in on creating it.

Hold on. I'm not wacking out here. Think on this. If you lived as though you created everything - separated day from night, brought forth all forms of living creatures, made the earth to yield plants of every kind, and created others in your image - would your daily thoughts and actions be any different?

Adam and Eve gave up man's dominion when they listened to a "serpent" like a parent being persuaded by a child's deceptive attempt to control power.

Jesus reclaimed dominion for all mankind and now holds all authority (Matt. 28:18). The cool thing is that Jesus didn't reclaim dominion simply to have power over the rest of us. He prayed in John 17:21 "that all of them [believers] may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so..."

Do you live as though you are in God just as Jesus is in God? The desire of God's heart is that we be one with him - be seen as the image of God. And if we are one with him, then we must view all of creation as he does. Do you?

Do you live the life God had in mind for man or are you living a serpents life messing with the intended order of all things?

Go watch The Lion King for a good visual of what happens when order is messed up. Maybe that will help you understand why your life sometimes seems dried up.

Jesus came to set things right. Authority is much more than having control of power. I urge you with Paul to live with the authority which we have been given through Christ Jesus. This authority is a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.
Paul writes from prison in 2 Timothy 1:6-10:
I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline. So do not be ashamed to testify about our Lord, or ashamed of me his prisoner. But join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life--not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Angry Conversations with God by Susan E Isaacs

Great read from beginning to end... and don't skip the introduction. :)

"Sarcasm is a viable form of communication." This phrase is sprinkled throughout the book and it's truth is in every chapter.

I found myself going back in time, relating to the mindset of the author in various places throughout my own search for truth. She reveals aspects of many who desire to find the real God and others who kill that desire by thinking they have all the answers.

Her humor is fantastic - great for laughs and powerful for truth. She creates characters from her life that the reader can easily relate to. Her stories put pictures to what many of us have thought or wanted to say. Maybe we've even said it but it didn't feel funny in the midst of our frustrations with people, with the church, or with God.

I recommend this book for those who have struggled to fit in a church or connect with the typical church mindset (or at least it seems typical when you feel you are alone in the way you think). I also recommend it for those who have always loved "the church" and defended it as if it were God himself.

Here's a couple of quotes that will stay with me:
"Maybe that's what church really is: just a bunch of guys, trying to figure it out together."

"Here's the hardest thing. I have to accept God as he is. Even if he never blesses me or gives me adventure, purpose, or meaning."
I borrowed this one from the library. I may need to buy a copy to have on hand for when I'm frustrated with life as a follower of Jesus Christ.

This review is also posted on at - see other books I've rated 5 star to see if we have the same taste in a what qualifies as a "great read."

Friday, August 07, 2009

What it "will be"?

I just read a good post titled "What is Heaven Like?" I like Tracy Berta's blog. And I recommend it as a regular read. I want to add just a bit to her thoughts which end up at the same place I'm emphasizing.

Her title is a great question. Then she goes into what heaven will be as if it doesn't yet exist which seems to be the general slant of many churchians. Again, it's a great post, so be sure to read all the way to the end. She gives a beautiful and honest picture of worship in the church along with the freedom of children worshiping.

Now, here's the thing I want to bring out more. Jesus brought heaven to us. Heaven is the reign of God. Oh, it's not complete yet and there is still opposition on the field. But he told us it is near and I don't think he was talking about time.

Jesus says to his disciples in Matthew 16:19 "I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." He repeats this in Matthew 18:18 after speaking earlier in that chapter about the necessity to become like little children in order to enter heaven.

As Tracy said, those children she mentions in her blog post are showing us what heaven IS like now, not what it will be like.

The thing we might want to think about is what are we binding and loosening right now. Because I think heaven will be much more similar to what it IS in our life right now than we think.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Truth, Fiction, and Mystery

A page from my journal...

Lord, my mind is full of vague pictures - like looking into a poor mirror? I'm beginning to see how everthing in this flesh is foreshadowing what is to come.

All of the OT foreshadowed Jesus Christ. He then showed us what is to come after him. I can't see it clearly but I am beginning to see how this world that I know and understand through the senses is both significant and insignificant. Almost like everything is a parable. A parable to reveal the mystery of Christ but not everyone can see it.

We get too caught up in living it, trying to make it something rather than just experiencing it for the sake of learning what we cannot make of it. We end up "confirming" only according to our own understanding instead of finding the hidden treasures of God.

Now, how does this impact the way I live, the way I respond to my children and others?

Every circumstance is an opportunity to learn and therefore be transformed further into the likeness of Christ. Wow. That's a bit overwhelming.

When I'm frustrated or irritated... Do I see the situation as something in which I am to control the outcome with my choices? Or do I see a lesson to learn about the righteousness I have received from Christ?

These thoughts came after reading Psalm 119:137 Righteous are you, O Lord, and your laws are right. Followed by Colossians 1:24 - 3:4. My mind is also fresh with the influence of C.S. Lewis' The Great Divorce, and a discussion with a friend as to whether fiction is worth reading. I believe there are many things God wants to reveal to us that we cannot understand within the realm of comprehending only according to the senses. Fiction (parables) provides the imagination to reveal more even if it is fiction written by someone who knows nothing of Jesus Christ.

Ultimately, I think what I'm getting at is that truth is not what we understand but what we experience. Don't ask me to explain that further. I can't.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Which "one man" influences you most?

For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous. ~ Romans 5:19
So, when you say "I'm only human" are you saying the first man has more influence in your life than the second man?

Read all of Romans 5 and 6. I don't think God sent his son to die for us to continue following the first man. What do you think?

For more of my thoughts on this subject: Read Hope in Ignoring the Law.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Unity is Tough, Individualism is Rough

As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey. So the churches were strengthened in the faith and grew in numbers. ~ Acts 16:4-5
Most of us have, at one time or another, struggled with receiving direction from others. But look at the results mentioned in the above scripture.

The pull to resist unity leads to a rough existence not only for the individual resisting direction but also for those who are forced to choose which individual is "right." Stress and negativity build up in the leader resisting direction; the effectiveness of that leader is damaged beyond the specific circumstance; and the good intended by all is weakened.

In Matthew 12:7, Jesus warns the Pharisees with a quote from Hosea 6:6: "I desire mercy, not sacrifice." Jesus is referring to the Pharisees insistence on individuals following the law according to their interpretation. They didn't like this new guy in town changing the way they did things.

Just as God desires mercy over sacrifice, I believe He also desires unity over individual success. That relieves us of relying on our own understanding of God's will.

Assuming the direction given by others is Biblically based, which would you rather do, be united with others or stand out for individual success?
May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. ~ John 17:23

Don't get me wrong. There are times God calls individuals to stand apart. But that is a rough road. To succeed in his kingdom, God will not leave you alone. Elijah felt alone but God revealed otherwise. (See 1 Kings 17-19) Notice that when he felt alone, he got alone until he received clear direction from God.

For more of my thoughts on working as a team, read Team Development Part 2 - Your Spot in the Big Picture.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Pray, As Usual

"'Why are you sleeping?' he asked them. 'Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.'" ~ Luke 22:46
Looking at this segment of scripture usually leads me to focus on Jesus' prayer. Beth Crawford's study on Luke 22:39-62 placed my focus more on the mental and physical circumstances of the disciples in this scene.

Jesus warned them many times that things were going to get rough. But the disciples didn't understand what he was talking about. And they certainly didn't understand how quickly things would happen.

Verse 39 says "Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives." The disciples may have followed him other times. He was only a "stone's throw" away from them. Did they sleep through this learning session every time?

What are you learning in the peaceful times? Do you wait until the difficult stuff hits to start praying?

If we want to be true followers of Christ, our "as usuals" should be like Christ. Do you think that he knew what was about to happen only because he was fully God? I don't. I think he knew because he talked to God often in the very same way we can.

Temptation and crisis will come, there's no doubt about it. We are not given the privilege of a warning from Satan as to when he will strike. The best way to be prepared for the difficult times is to have conversation with God when things seem to be going as usual.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Dead Bodies all Around - faith, perseverance and justice now

"'Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you , on that night two people will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding grain together; one will be taken and the other left.' 'Where, Lord?' they asked. He replied 'Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather.'" ~ Luke 17:33-37
Strange reply to the question, "Where, Lord?" Don't you think?

If that's all I read of this section of scripture, I might walk away feeling like I had done my "Christian discipline" of daily Bible reading but it wouldn't do much for me in the rest of the day.

Once again, I looked for the scene changes. Where was Jesus? Who was he talking to throughout the scene?

He was traveling along the border between Samaria and Galilee (Luke 17:11) then passed through Jericho (Luke 19:1) before entering the temple in Jerusalem (19:45).

He begins by healing 10 lepers - one, a Samaritan, returned to praise him. Then the Pharisees are asking when the kingdom of God will come. A miracle has just happened and they want to know when the reign of God is going to start. Think on that a bit.

Jesus then talks about how obvious God's presence should be to everyone. He reminds them of the people in Noah's day and in the days of Lot. People chose to die instead of seeing the reign of God in their midst. Then he gives an example of two people living in current day circumstances and being separated. Do you see the two groups throughout this passage?

Then comes the "Where, Lord?" question. They are back to asking, where is this kingdom Jesus is talking about.

"Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather."

Now Jesus gives them a parable "to show them that they should always pray and not give up." (Luke 18:1) Within this parable, Jesus speaks of perseverance, justice, and faith. Then he talks about two different types of prayer. The next parable teaches that the man who humbles himself in prayer will be justified before God. (18:14)

Ah, then Jesus makes his point a little more obvious by telling the disciples to let the children come to him. Why? "Anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."

Do you hear the question again? Where Lord? Where is the kingdom? When will we see it?

Then comes the "certain ruler" who wants to know how to inherit eternal life. This lesson on total surrender in the present circumstances with a seemingly upright and moral ruler is followed by another miracle - a blind man received his sight - and then Jesus hanging out with tax collectors who apparently like the kingdom of God stuff Jesus reveals to them.

At 19:11 we're back to the people thinking the kingdom of God will appear at once in a very easily recognizable way for all to see. Nope, that's not the way it is.

Jesus once again speaks in a parable about two types of people - servants and subjects. And he's back to the more obvious theme of perseverance, justice, and faith.

Keep reading and you will find Jesus teaching his disciples about the faith that sees things before they are based on trust and knowledge of the one in charge, perseverance that could bring peace right now, and justice that always comes as a result of faith and perseverance.

Sometimes we are so blind that we don't even realize we are giving up on our faith. We want to say faith is accepting things as they are until the kingdom comes. But God says the kingdom is here. "What is impossible with men is possible with God." (18:27) We assume justice comes with God's wrath when all is said and done.

The truth is our perseverance and our trusting that God reigns today brings justice in our lives and in the world around us today.

There is much on my mind this morning as to what God has revealed to me about my lack of faith and perseverance. His kingdom is here. I don't have to wait for it. A dead body is one that has given up on seeing God's justice in the current circumstances. Jesus Christ came to give us life.

There are dead bodies all around - some are even upright and moral leaders. If I give up, the vultures will gather around me too. I think I've seen them circling.

I want to chose life which comes from the same Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead. That is where my strength to persevere must come from. My faith is built on knowing that Jesus brought the kingdom to earth and he persevered among the dead around him to the point of dying on the cross.

My faith is destroyed when I choose to give up because I've been wounded or I choose to hide what Jesus has given me and just wait for his high in the sky return because I'm afraid of what might happen if I live from a heart of sincere trust in God.
He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. ~ Isaiah 33:6
Are you dead or alive? He is our sure foundation. Persevere with faith and you will see justice lived out in front of you.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Your Weakest Link

Discerning our unique calling is not always a simple thing. We need to be quiet enough to hear God's still, small voice. We must also faithfully read the Scriptures, pray diligently, follow the Lord's teachings, listen to wise friends who know us, and consistently make ourselves available to serve. Finally, we have to remain open to God's possibilities, always willing to take the outrageous risk and do the unpredictable thing. (Stearns, Richard. The Hole in Our Gospel. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2009)

Read through the above quote again. There are seven elements listed as essential to discerning your unique calling. Which ones are you missing? Maybe that's why you're frustrated. I know why I'm frustrated - #5 and #6 are my weak links.

Why are there weak links? For me, it is an issue of trusting others. It's hard to "listen to wise friends" if I don't let friends really get to know me. People get to know me more than I like when I "serve." And why is it hard for me to let people get to know me? Satan has fed me a little lie that I've eaten up for most of my life... no one is interested in what I have to say or what I think.

Ironic, isn't it? Satan uses lies that relate directly to what God is calling us to do. That sly devil.

What is your weak link? What lie is Satan using to keep you weak?

Monday, July 13, 2009

Saved by Grace, Then What?

Unfortunately, some Protestants have emphasized salvation by grace not works in such a way that many Christians do not have an orientation toward working with God. The result is that millions are sitting in pews deprived of a dynamic, book of Acts relationship with God. (Franklin, John. "Chapter 36: Intimacy with God through Prayer." Giving Ourselves to Prayer. Terre Haute: PrayerShop, 2008.)
Are you so in awe of God's grace that you've failed to see His purpose for creating you - his purpose for saving you?

As Franklin states in the above quote, many Christians talk about being saved by grace and may show their appreciation by doing good things "in the name of Jesus." But fewer consider the significance of working with God in his kingdom.

Is being thankful for this grace and persuading others to accept salvation by grace all there is to being a follower of Christ? No. There's work to be done. It is specific, humanly incomprehensible, and divinely beneficial.

God has work for us to do
There are plenty of scriptures that indicate we should be doing something as followers of Christ. Some are easier to apply than others.

Colossians 3:23 which says "whatever you do work at it as if working for God" is one of the easier verses to apply. In a sense, we have control. Whatever we do, whatever we choose, whatever happens to come our way, we are to do it as if working for God.

But then there is Ephesians 2:10 which says "we are created for good works." But not just whatever good works happen to come our way. The verse indicates God prepared specific work for us long before we existed.

Jesus didn't just serve the Father in whatever came his way. Jesus worked with God. He stated that he did only what he saw the Father doing. In John 14 Jesus tells us not even his words were his own.

God assigns work immediately
Franklin points out in his chapter on Intimacy with God through Prayer that God put Adam to work in the garden immediately after he breathed life into him (Gen. 2:15). In the same fashion, Jesus said "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." He didn't invite his followers to sit around listening to him preach. He invited them to work.

Jesus also promised in John 14:12 that his followers would do what he had been doing and even more. He came in the flesh to show us how to work with God.

The assigned work creates intimacy with God
Talking with someone is a nice way to learn about them. But if you really want to get to know someone intimately, you need to work beside them in areas that are important to them.

Prayer is the essential element in discovering the assigned work. And work is the essential element to building the intimacy.

Imagine pouring your heart out to someone only for them to walk away with no expression of desire to be involved in your passion. They nod in agreement but do not join you in your efforts. Do you feel a deep connection with that person?

God's heart is for his kingdom to come to earth. Revelation 21 paints a beautiful picture of the final result. Jesus taught his disciples to pray for that kingdom to come to earth now (Matt. 6:10). He also instructed followers to focus first and foremost on this kingdom (Matt. 6:33).

It is easier for us to try to manage (or worry about) things we comprehend - like clothing and food mentioned in Matthew 6. But God's ways and his thoughts are much greater than ours. That's why we can't just make our own plans and carry out the work we perceive as necessary for him.

He saves us by grace because we don't know enough about his ways to enter his kingdom by any other means.

The exciting part is that God wants to let us in on his ways. God says in Isaiah 48:6-7 "From now on I will tell you of new things, of hidden things unknown to you. They are created now, and not long ago; you have not heard of them before today. So you cannot say, 'Yes, I knew of them.'"

He wants to tell us the secrets of his kingdom. He wants us to work with him in his divine nature (2 Peter 1:3-4). We get to work with him to develop the new kingdom he is creating now.

Work. That's what's next. Work specifically designed for you as soon as you accept God's grace. Work that you cannot do on your own. And work that will make you one with the Creator. It is what makes grace a lot more exciting than sitting in a church pew.

Listen as you pray. He will give you an assignment and he won't leave you to do it on your own.

Come Holy Spirit! Let's do it!

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Asking for Blessings - God with Us

While walking this morning I was praying for the school in our neighborhood. The typical stuff, God bless the students and teachers; protect them, yada, yada, yada.... Then God interrupted me. I love it when he does that.

Insight - God doesn't want to just bless us with good things or safe circumstances. He wants to be with us. He wants his presence to be real.

Just as Jesus was Emmanuel - "God with Us", we who have the Spirit of Christ are also Emmanuel - "God with Us." Sounds a bit bold, doesn't it? Almost scary. But I think it's true. It is up to us to bring the presence of God in the flesh to the world today. Jesus meant it when he said in John 14:12 "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father."

If we are asking for God's will, God's greatest blessing, we must also offer up ourselves to be Emmanuel for those we are praying for. Ah, so many more thoughts on this but I'll stop here for now.

This is the ultimate blessing:
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." ~ Revelation 21:3-4

They will say, "Where is this 'coming' he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation." The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. ~ 2 Peter 3:4,9

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Erec Rex fans and indebtedness to Jesus

A Bible study on Romans 8:1-8 asked the question "How much do you feel indebted to Jesus?"

This reminded me of a scene from Erec Rex: The Monsters of Otherness. If you like Harry Potter, I recommend you check out the Erec Rex series by Kaza Kingsley.

I don't want to give away the good parts of the story but there is a scene in which Erec is about to die and another character intentionally steps in the path of the death arrow.

It is more than the love of a friend. The character gives his life for the good of the entire world of which Erec has the ability to impact.

Erec's life is difficult and full of opposition. Like us, Erec has questioned whether it is worth the struggle. He has the option to escape to what would seem like a comfortable life. This character gave Erec a reason to persevere not only for himself but to honor the one who gave his life for him. This character also demonstrated his faith in Erec's ability by giving him a part of himself which would empower Erec to do even greater things.

Rephrasing Beth's question: Do I live to honor what Jesus did for me? Do I recognize that Jesus gave his life for me whether I am the Erec Rex character or one of those Erec will protect?

The other cool similarity is in the character giving a part of himself to Erec. Jesus has given us a part of himself, the Holy Spirit.

In the same way that Erec will depend on his gift, we must learn to depend on our gift to make the choices that will honor Christ.

How much do you feel indebted to Jesus? Are you living your life in honor of him and his intentions for life?

Receive the Holy Spirit and do not be afraid to follow what is revealed to you.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Swags and Jams

Steve Robbins has a way with words. He spoke this weekend at Vineyard Church of Columbus. The printed title of his message was "How Do We Grow-Up Together?," although I don't recall hearing him refer to that title. Instead, this product of the Jesus Movement referred to getting new swags and jams from the influence of our older brother Jesus.

Robbins message challenged me in speaking of the layers of clothing (swags) referred to in Colossians 3:12-17. The layers are:
  • Compassion - deep, gut-wrenching feeling which moves us beyond knowledge to action
  • Kindness - the original Greek word used describes the mellowing of wine which has lost its harshness, in other words it is "grace in action"
  • Humility - absence of self-exaltation
  • Gentleness - quality of not being overly impressed by a sense of one's self importance; strength under control
  • Patience - putting distance between you and your wrath; long-fussed
He then addressed the question of "How do we put these swags on?" by first emphasizing that none of these virtues can be worked outside of community. He also pointed to the progression (rather than the simple do's and dont's) of verses 13 and 14.
  • Bear with each other
  • Forgive one another - the original Greek indicates "grace," forgive when it's not deserved
  • Cover it all with love - without love the virtues are just duty
I used to think I lacked compassion. This message seemed to reveal to me that I have a great deal of compassion but I'm lacking in the other layers. My compassion (what I've seen as an untamed passionate personality) generally shows up with harshness and a desire to be seen making a difference.

I now see the significance of all the layers being present and "accessorized" by the belt of love. One or two layers without the others is just not hip.

How are your layers? Anything exposed inappropriately?

The sermon should be posted online later this week.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

How to pray?

I'm focusing on one verse a day from Psalm 119. Yesterday I was praying about how to encourage someone in how to pray. Then I looked at my Psalm 119 verse:
How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth. Ps 119:103
When prayer seems awkward or difficult, pray his words.

The Psalms are a great place to find his words to pray.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Are you running aimlessly? - Additional Thoughts

In the comments regarding the Are you running aimlessly? post, Lorie asked, "So, what about this perspective is new for you?" My comment back was getting lengthy so here it is as a new blog post.

In the past I've always seen the race as my own individual race. The goal was to persevere for my own sake. To do all the "christian" stuff so I can die and go to heaven. It's quite an exhausting and self-focused perspective. It brings on depression, frustration with others, and feeling of hopelessness when I "mess up."

Reading this scripture last Saturday, I saw the goal totally different. It's not me getting somewhere. It's bringing the good news to others and to this earth. In a relay race, only the last runner is going to cross the finish line. The goal for all the rest is to place the baton in the hand of the next runner. But they are all on the same team... all running to get the same prize which is not persevering to make it to heaven. And it is not just doing whatever to "win as many [people] as possible" (the word "cheating" comes to mind with the self-focused perspective - that could be another blog post). The prize is bringing the kingdom of God here and now. That's the baton.

The prize is the completed restoration of God's Kingdom, when we see the Holy City coming down out of heaven and the dwelling of God is with men; no more death or mourning or crying or pain. The old order has passed away. The race is finished. (Rev 21:1-8)

Paul isn't talking about his own perseverance in this passage. He's talking about the thrill of being in the race with others - handing off the baton.

A relay race is different than an individual race. The timing and passing of the baton add more than an obstacle - we're not jumping hurdles to get the prize unless your race is self-focused. It's a real team effort. Each time the baton is passed successfully, there is a sense of moving forward.

When a relay runner passes the baton to the next runner, they have to be in synch for a smooth pass.

When I call on the Holy Spirit to heal someone, I'm passing the baton. When I participate in prayer which releases another person from the bondage of evil spirits in any way, I'm passing the baton and they carry it on toward the finish line from there.

Now, obviously this is a multi-dimensional race. I'm not just out there to pass the baton once. I get to use my freedom (which came with the baton passed to me) to be a slave to everyone. (1 Cor 9:19).

Think of that part this way... if you've ever been in a race or competitive sport of any kind, there is a great let down when you don't win. The race God has set out for us has a no-fail outcome. When we pass the baton, we still have another baton to pass. It's certainly discouraging when others don't take the baton we pass them but it's not the end of the race. Our race is not a mark to get to. Our race is right in front of us each day - passing the baton - bringing the kingdom of God here right now to each person who grabs on to the baton we pass to them.

In all of this is the new perspective of the significance of the life and resurrection of Jesus. I've always been taught of the significance of his death on the cross. But the significance of Jesus as a visual of the restored kingdom on earth is new to me.

I've been taught to look to Jesus as "what would Jesus do" so that I can make it to heaven. Then heaven is supposed to be this place of reward for persevering. With that perspective, messing up (aka not doing what Jesus would do), can be very discouraging. Then, not really knowing what "heaven" looks like can become discouraging because you aren't sure it's worth the effort. Therefore, being "christ-like" becomes a way to avoid the traditional view of hell more than a longing for the prize of heaven.

But Jesus is more than a role model for my actions. He is a visual for living in the new earth which is the finish line. He provides the sightings, the baton, to pass on. I can say to those who experience God's rule with me that this is what heaven (the Kingdom of God) is rather than this is what heaven will sort of be like.

Jesus resurrection is a visual and proof that the finish line is not dying and going to this mysterious place we call heaven. He came back here to this earth in bodily form and he promised to return here to this earth. At which time the batons will be collected and those without a baton will sadly be disqualified from the race. The opposing team (Satan and his demons) will be ushered off the field, out of the arena and God will make all things new.

Heaven is here when we bring the reign and rule of God's kingdom into our current circumstances. I never knew that. I thought all that praying and being "christ-like" stuff was just the stuff you had to do to get to heaven - whatever and wherever that mysterious place is. I thought asking for healing was asking God for a big favor. God's wants his kingdom here. He longs to dwell with us - as many of us who will grab the baton.

Approaching life with this perspective - bringing heaven here and now - makes life a lot more exciting to me. Knowing that the finish line is not just existing and trying to do the "right" things to persevere but the finish line is seeing all the batons lifted high all around the world, knowing that what I enjoy here will be made even better. Knowing the stuff that destroys my hope and joy will be gone.

And as I'm typing, I'm realizing that it just makes sense that the more hope and joy that is passed around, the more enjoyable life is. Even when a team is still in a tough competition, it's nice to see the score is in your favor.

So, yes, we do persevere but it's not a blind perseverance which I've assumed. It's more like a woman who is pregnant. Many women have a hard time believing they are really pregnant the first few months of their first pregnancy because they don't see anything different. Persevering through morning sickness is more difficult if you can't see any evidence of the prize to come. Once the womb starts growing, the discomfort is no more enjoyable but it is tolerated with more hope. God doesn't ask us to try to convince others about his kingdom just with words. He gives us visuals. And everyone knows that a picture is worth a thousand words. :)

I hope all these words help give a better picture of what I'm seeing in 1 Corinthians 9:19-27.

May his kingdom come, his will be done on earth today as it is in heaven.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Are you running aimlessly?

Run in such a way as to get the prize.... I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 1 Corinthians 9:24, 26
Have you noticed how much more easier it is to obtain a goal when you know what the goal is? Maybe that's why parenting is so frustrating, I'm not sure what the finish line looks like or where it is.

As for the Christ follower, what is the finish line? Is it just tallying up how many people we tagged for Christ before we die? Is it being a good person - whatever good means to me?

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:22 "I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some." If the goal were to save people or be good, I think he might consider going in circles if necessary to save all.

He gives the goal in verse 23: "I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessing." 

Is he looking for a reward just for running the race? Well, yes but not the kind we think of - not something presented for effort. The goal is the finish line of the gospel - the kingdom of God. And I don't think he is just talking about some invisible place that is out there somewhere after he dies. We can see this finish line in the resurrected Jesus Christ and anywhere else the power of the Holy Spirit overpowers evil.

The gospel - good news - is fantastic for everyone. It is the reign of an all loving, all powerful God without the interference of obstacles. Imagine that! That reign is here now in part so that we know what the finish line looks like. 

There are others in the race with us running aimlessly. They may seem like an obstacle but when we help them see the finish line, they help us get to the finish line sooner. When we bring the power of God's rule to someone through healing or setting them free from stuff that is not of God's kingdom (depression, poverty, physical or mental illness, injustice, etc.), we are relaying the gospel.

Those who we relay the gospel to, pick up the same goal - we give them sight of the finish line. The exciting thing is that all who pick up the baton are headed for the same finish line and we will all share in its blessing. 

Those who don't pick up the baton are running aimlessly. They think they are getting rewards but they don't have their sight on the real finish line and so the thrill of the reward earned along the way diminishes.

The goal is not for me to make it to the finish line so that I get the reward. The finish line is not the end of my life on earth. The finish line is the end of the evil age and the perfection of God's reign over eternity.
And the Good News about the Kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, so that all nations will hear it; and then, finally, the end will come. ~ Matthew 24:14 (NLT)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

What is a Leader?

"Great leaders do not presume that God is on their side. Rather, they humbly try to discern whether God may be judging both them and their enemies."

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hope in Ignoring the Law

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. ~ Romans 7:15
This is one of the many segments of Paul's writing that has puzzled me. Is he saying he can't help but sin? Therefore, we also must face the fact that we cannot be without sin ourselves? That's what I've always thought, but I don't think that is exactly what he is saying.

When this scripture is read in context (at minimum all of chapters 7 and 8) there is much greater hope in this passage. 

Paul tells us that we know what sin is because of the law. When we try to follow the law on our own strength, we quickly find that we can't do it - "for what I want to do I do not do."

I think he is saying that when I rely on myself, I will sin. However, the good news is that we have been rescued from having to rely on ourself! Think about that! It's great news. 
Personal example. Several years ago, I battled an addiction which I knew was not good. In my prayers I focused on the stuff I didn't want to do. I was losing each battle until I finally responded to God's call to quit looking at the "law" and put my focus on him. This is impossible to do on our own strength. Only the Spirit can show us the mind of God.
Paul is saying, if I try to be a good moral person or if I try to live according to the law given to Moses, if that is my focus in life, I'm doomed. I can't do it. But, if I focus on the Spirit given to me through Jesus Christ, then I live and everything falls into place as it should.
More typical example. My child responds inappropriately to my instructions. The sinful self wants that kid to obey God's law - Honor your parents! By focusing on that law, I generally lose it - "mama volcano blows." But if I give up my control and focus on the Spirit of God within me, amazing life and peace appear in the midst of the battle. It may not be void of struggle but the stench of being imprisoned by death is overpowered by the sweetness of life.
Paul is not giving us justification for the bad things we do. This passage is a declaration of freedom from the bondage to that sinful life. Yes, for now, the battle continues. But the good news is that we are not prisoners of this war. We have been rescued to fight not on our own strength which always brings death but by the very same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead.

May God add the exhilarating blessing of understanding as you read his Word today.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.

You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
~ Romans 8:5-11

Friday, June 05, 2009

The Gospel of the Kingdom by George Eldon Ladd

"One truth is set forth: the Kingdom of God which one day shall fill the earth is here among men but in a form which was never before expected." (p 59)

Ladd delivers an exciting teaching on the reality of the already and not yet of the Kingdom. I've posted several quotes on my website Grow2Sow.

This book is not for those comfortable with a learned perception of heaven being something only of the future. It gives meaning and purpose to our life right now that is beyond what is taught in most churches today.

The author writes with an assumption that his audience agrees with his understanding of the Millennium but even if you don't agree with his assumptions, the book is excellent for stirring the mind and revealing insights on the characteristics of the Kingdom of God and the role of the Church today in that Kingdom.

The final chapter leaves the reader with the ultimate challenge: "When is Christ coming again? When the Church has finished its task." Ladd has given us the keys to that task throughout the dynamic read of a mere 140 pages. 

If you are interested in truth over comfort of what you've been taught, pick up a copy and study with the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

How's your heart for others?

"...Mr. Fogg stopped him, and, turning to Sir Francis Cromarty, said, 'Suppose we save this woman.'

'Save the woman, Mr. Fogg!'

'I have yet twelve hours to spare; I can devote them to that.'

'Why, you are a man of heart!'

'Sometimes,' replied Phileas Fogg, quietly; 'when I have the time.'"

Jules Verne, Around the World in Eighty Days
(Ann Arbor, MI: Borders Group, 2007), 54.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Purpose of Prayer

"Really the whole purpose of prayer is not to get our will done but to get God's will done." (Thomas L. Constable, Giving Ourselves to Prayer, Terre Haute, IN: Prayer Shop Publishing, 2008)

Are you amazed when God answers prayer? Are you disappointed when it seems he doesn't answer your prayers?

If we approach prayer with an earnest desire to know God's will, we are more likely to find ourselves leaving the prayer time rejoicing for what he has shown us will be done rather than waiting to see if we are amazed or disappointed.

Originally posted to Central Ohio Praying Moms, April 4, 2009. 

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Submission and Fear

For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance--now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15
"How fully have you welcomed what God has offered through Jesus (Heb. 9:15)?" (Beth Crawford, Bible Studies as a Follow-Up to this Week's Sermon May 30-31, 2009, Vineyard Church of Columbus)

I'm praying about volunteering just a little time with a ministry I believe strongly in. However, my past in similar experiences creates a fear in doing so. Can you relate?

Rich Nathan made this statement last night:
Receiving Jesus as Lord is not a true/false test. It is a yes/no test.
In other words, proclaiming to have Christ in me is not about whether I believe Jesus is Lord. Proclaiming to have received Christ is about whether I have submitted my life fully to Him as my Lord.

What does that have to do with my struggle of volunteering? Christ in me means I have been set free from past sins. The past experiences that created this fear came from attempting to do the right thing with my own knowledge rather than acknowledging the presence, power, and counsel of my Lord in the midst of that experience. 

I realized I'm having a hard time hearing his will in this decision because I'm holding on to the fear. 

The question is not so much do I believe I should volunteer? The question is will I submit fully to God in the process - the entire process from decision through involvement. Will I welcome what God has offered through Jesus - a clear conscience so that I can hear and serve with clarity.
How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God! Hebrews 9:14

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Christian Life - Boasting in Weakness

Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again. Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my own countrymen, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false brothers. I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28
"Which of these might have discouraged you from serving Christ any more?" (Beth Crawford, Bible Studies as a Follow-Up to this Week's Sermon May 23-24, 2009, Vineyard Church of Columbus)

Why is it that I so desperately want to think the Christian Life is easy if I do it right?

Paul warns about false teachers in 2 Corinthians 11. These false teachers weren't teaching stuff that was easily recognized as bad. They were masquerading as "apostles of Christ" and were perceived as "servants of righteousness." 

Paul calls them "super-apostles" which makes me laugh. Have you ever praised the messenger more than God who empowers the messenger? Some of us err on the side of wanting to learn how to be like that person. Others err on the side of thinking they could never be like that person. Few praise with the desire to be like the one they know has suffered greatly to be who they are.
I once idolized a person in my church - I'll call her Sandy. Every time she got up to speak, I thought, wow, I'd like to be like her. She was always smiling and positive. Her voice was perfect for a speaker. Her style of speaking was warm and inviting. She seemed to have so much wisdom. I wanted to be a speaker just like her.
The true servant of righteousness knows that his righteousness comes only from Christ - it is absolutely nothing that can be earned by human efforts. Therefore, the true servant of Christ boasts only in Jesus Christ whose life consists of great suffering from beginning to the end of this evil age.
I took Sandy out to lunch. I wanted to find out all I could about her so I could be like Sandy. Again, she impressed me by always turning the conversation back to me. She found out much more about me that day than I found out about her. She quieted every attempt to praise her by turning the conversation back to who God wanted me to be.
Right now, we are between two worlds. We are in an evil age with the power of the "age to come" available through Christ in us. The problem is that most of us want to live as if we are in the fullness of the age to come - no pain or suffering. Sometimes we attempt to smooth over the edges of this evil age hoping to make the two ages blend. They are not going to "blend."
Sandy spoke at a women's event - gave her personal testimony. I listened intently about the pain and suffering she had endured at the hands of others. I realized if I wanted to be like Sandy, I was going to have to be open to suffering.
"We suffer to show that the world continues to be hostile to Christ. It's not us they are against. It's Christ." (Rich Nathan, Vision for life: Seeing the Big Picture (Colossians) Series - Portrait of a Pastor, May 23-24, 2009, Vineyard Church of Columbus)
Sandy's suffering had little if anything to do with being a follower of Christ. But her suffering led her to the wisdom of Christ's suffering. She learned to trust and depend fully on God regardless of her circumstances.
Are you discouraged by suffering? Sit down with the written history of Jesus Christ. Read through the book of Mark (or one of the other Gospels) in one sitting. Then check out Acts. Warning: you may discover your life is too easy to claim to have Christ in you.

Suffering, boasting in weakness. I'm not sure I'm there yet. But I want to be. 

Knowing the suffering of others who shine with Christ gives me hope. The hope of knowing that Christ in me - including his suffering - is the hope of glory, the hope of God's presence here and now in this evil age.
But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." 2 Corinthians 12:9

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Good according to who?

Do good to your servant according to your word, O Lord. Psalm 119:65
Hmm, ever been frustrated or angry at God because he wasn't being "good" according to your perspective. Been there, done that. Really helps to check out life according to HIS Word.

Friday, May 22, 2009

N.T. Wright

"And the problem is not that people disagree with me. That is what one expects and wants. Let’s have the discussion! The point of discourse is to learn with and from one another.... We need other minds on the job, to challenge us, to come back at us, to engage with our arguments and analyses. That is how the world goes round." (N.T. Wright, Justification, IVPress, 2009)
Ah, this is why I love to read N.T. Wright.

Check out the video clip and excerpts from his new book Justification at

Friday, May 08, 2009

Reality Check from Southeast Asia

" be able to minister to both sides of the problem, is the only way that this will ever end." Season of Light
What's bothering you today? Do feel you've been treated unjustly? Did someone cut you off in traffic? Did a friend or co-worker hurt your feelings, damage your ego? I invite you to check your priorities and attitudes as I have done today reading through the blog posts listed below.

Season of Light is one of my favorite bloggers on the issue of human trafficking. She has posted difficult to describe commentary of her trip to southeast Asia with Love146.

I suggest you read them in order (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3). They are lengthy and you will most likely need to take a break between posts to allow the emotional impact to settle. If you read them too quickly, you may become immune to what you are reading. Please don't do that. But please do read all the way through them even if it takes you a few days.

Love146 Partnership Trip: Day 1
Love146 Partnership Trip: Day 2
Love146 Partnership Trip: Day 3

The reality for me is this, most of the stuff I get upset or stressed about in my daily activities is extremely insignificant. Whether it is combating human trafficking or making a decision on  a work or church project, the significant issue is not my perspective verses the other persons. The significance is working together with God to bring His kingdom (his reign - his way of doing things) right here, right now. That's what Jesus did and if we profess to be Christ-like, that is what we are to do.

Our Father in heaven, forgive us for making such insignificant things a priority in our lives. Open our eyes to your kingdom here and now. May we do only what we see you doing so your reign will break through in the midst of This evil Age.
"your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matthew 6:10)

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mark in "one sitting" - What Crime Has He Committed

One last thought from my "one sitting" reading.

When Pilate was asking the crowd what to do with Jesus, they shouted, "Crucify him!" To which Pilate responded "Why? What crime has he committed?" (Mark 15:14)

Celebrating (lifting up) Christ responds to all the problems of this world. Why do we fear speaking of Jesus Christ in our increasingly diverse religious marketplace as if the truth of Jesus would be offensive?

I want to be bold not for my glory but for the glory of God. I want to be bold not for my comfort but for the peace available to every person who lives in fear or who questions the purpose of living. When I step out to share who Jesus Christ is to me there will be some who argue. They can disagree with my perspective but when they take offense to Jesus, I want to be bold enough to ask "Why? What crime has he committed against you?"

The image of Christ during his "trial" is of one who does not attempt to argue, persuade, or sell an idea to anyone. There are some who are searching for truth and others who just want to stir up trouble. Jesus responds to sincere questions with truth in very few words and allows the other person to accept it or reject it. 

That certainly goes against the norms of our image saturated culture. Wouldn't it be nice if businesses gave us the simple truth and then allowed us to accept or reject their product or service instead of trying to persuade us with flashy ads repeated over and over?

Now, the challenge is on you. Go read through the Gospel of Mark in "one sitting." Notice the flow of the life of Jesus. You might be surprised at what you find. 

Visit to hear Rich Nathan's sermon from May 2/3, 2009, 
titled "How Do We Respond To So Much Religious Diversity?" 
(online sermons usually posted by Thursday).

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Mark in "one sitting" - Passing Time with Pain

This is the second in a series of interesting connections revealed from attempting to read the Gospel of Mark in one sitting.
Mark 14:35 Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.

Mark 15:23 They offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it.
The New Scofield Study Bible footnote states: "Wine and myrrh mixed together composed a stupefying drink which was sometimes given to those who were in great pain in suffering such as must be endured in crucifixion."

When I want to avoid something, I'm more likely to pray the hour won't come at all. When I know I must do something uncomfortable, I pray that the hour will come and pass quickly.
This reminded me of my son's birth. The nurses were telling me mid-morning that it looked like he would be born before lunch. As the pain increased I chose to have an epidural (pain killer). My son was born after 7:30pm.
In reading about Jesus refusing the pain killer, I wondered how often I pray for God to relieve my pain at the cost of extending my suffering. Yes, it is in suffering that we develop perseverance (Romans 5:3), but suffering itself is not the goal. Christ was wise enough not to ask for pain relief. He was willing to get it over with so that he could get to the purpose of the suffering.

The image of Christ I'm getting here is that he did not intend to wait for a more comfortable solution. Accomplishing God's work was a greater motivator than avoiding the pain.
the mission:
PROCLAIM the good news; HEAL the sick and oppressed; BRING JUSTICE
~ Luke 4:16-20

Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing (John 14:12)
~ Jesus 

Copyright 2005-2010 Lisa Biggs Crum
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