Friday, April 6, 2012
Tuesday, April 3, 2012
Whenever I read through Genesis, I am always slightly lost when we get post-Noah and everything breaks up between his sons. Usually I just skip trying to understand that part and move right on to Abram. Today as I was reading, however, it all clicked (which shouldn’t be surprising since it’s a fairly simple breakdown when you actually look at it.
So we have Noah. He has three sons (Ham, Shem, and Japheth). Ham did a bad thing by not protecting his drunken, naked father and so he was cursed. Out of Ham comes Canaan, so Canaan was cursed and called the lowest of slaves. His descendants were made subject to the descendants of the good brothers (Shem and Japheth). So then, we learn in Genesis 11 that Abram came out of the line of Shem. That all being said, in Genesis 12 we start following the story of Abram as God calls him to pack up and head to a mystery land where they will be blessed and those who curse them will be cursed. Not a bad deal if you ask me.
The first thing that stands out to me when Abraham is called is that even though the Lord specifically tells him to leave his country, people and father’s household to venture off towards some unspecified land, the scriptures later report that within that deal Abram was still allowed to bring those closest to him along with. He brought his wife, his nephew, all their stuff, and the people they had acquired.
Lately I have had church plants on the mind since I am taking a church planting class. One of my biggest fears with a church plant, or even venturing out in any ministry is the idea that I will lose everything I have been blessed with to do it. There are so many scriptures like this throughout the Old Testament and the Gospels that tell us to leave everything we have and everyone we care about. At the same time, we know we serve a relational God who gives us family obligations and healthy relationships to keep us persevering in our faith and ministry. I have always had trouble reconciling these two seemingly competing thoughts. The more I study and understand, however, the more certain I am that while certain seasons of life mean change and that certain people come and in and out of the picture in our lives, the constants are far less bleak than we imagine.
When venturing out into a new ministry, we should have the support of those we love. We should have our immediate family, or surrogate families to stand in with us and keep us strong. We should never neglect the ministry of our family or our spouse for the ministry within or outside of the church. We must remember verses like when Jesus tells Legion to not leave and follow Jesus on foot, but to go back to his family and begin his ministry with those who were intentionally placed around him. Ministry may not have to be as complicated or programmatic as we try to make it.
The next thing in my study of Abram that stood out strongly was that they headed to Canaan. Just 2 chapters previous we are told that this is the cursed place. It is the lowest of the low. We as Christians are called to bring back to the Lord that which was lost. We are in the ministry of reconciliation. This means getting our hands “dirty.” It means that we go where we are needed, not where we are superfluous. It means that we reclaim that which is the Lords, which has taken unfounded authority against God. He has given us the authority to reclaim lost things.
Most Christians in the ministry (whether full-time or unofficially) have experienced at some point the deep desire and need to serve God with their lives. However, from the time we get involved we become so distracted with measuring success and maintaining ministry programs that we lose sight of the greater picture. We forget that God doesn’t limit his work to the confines of our line of sight. This was the next thing that stood out to me when reading about Abram. In Genesis 12:7 the scriptures say, “The Lord appeared to Abram and said, ‘To your offspring I will give this land.’” God is working on a multigenerational basis. The promise that the land will be inherited and won over for the Lord was given not to Abram personally, but to his greater influence. We need to remember as ministers of the Kingdom of God that we will never see the full success of our service to the Lord because God’s promises don’t have the same timeline as our own life.
I find it quite encouraging to realize that while my work may seem miniscule, someone I affect could be the one who sees the greater blessing. It is encouraging that it doesn’t all depend on me. I am glad that God works on a greater scale than things I can accomplish for myself. But it brings all the more necessity to my own faithfulness so that I can play my part and have an impact that will multiply through the generations.
Friday, December 9, 2011
Throughout most of my life, I haven’t been “in a relationship”. I didn’t find the requirement of being vulnerable, worth the heartache and lack of control it left me with. Independence was enjoyable and I have always been perfectly capable of taking care of myself. Until I got married last September, my longest relationships were all under 3 months. Within those short relationships I never got to a point of having to give up control or let someone push me beyond how open I was willing to be. About the time commitment levels would be looking to move beyond where I was comfortable, I was out.
Now that I am married there is no out. I find myself in a relationship that I will be in as long as both he and I are alive. Being “one flesh” (Gen. 2:24) means that little is kept to myself. Any way that I am insecure or don’t measure up, he is going to figure it out sooner or later. My proclivity to be controlling is challenged in my call to “submit” (Eph. 5:22) to my husband. Overall, it goes against so much of what I’ve trained myself to be.
We are taught throughout our lives to be some form of feminist. Although we weren’t intended to operate this way, we keep fighting for “women” and fighting against the biblical model of marriage and gender roles. The longer we try, the more we will find ourselves in contention with God’s perfect will, leaving us with anything but perfection.
Throughout my short time being married, God has been shifting my perspective of the role of women. I always wanted to go to college, go into pre-law, go to law school, and then (obviously) become a lawyer. I wasn’t opposed to marriage but I wasn’t convinced it would ever happen to me either. But that didn’t really matter a ton. I was willing to pick up this whole burden of life that God never intended for me. I planned to be the provider, the leader, and the head of my family—a man could enter in that if he wanted (but who would honestly want to be emasculated to that point?). I was trying to fulfill the role of powerful woman by being a man.
Biblically, women are to submit to their husbands (Eph. 5:22). They are to be helpers (Gen. 2:18). They are to be homeward in orientation and support their children and husband before all else (Titus 2:4-5). This isn’t to say they are weak or incapable, or that they shouldn’t work at all or can’t get an education. Check out Proverbs 31:10-31; a lot is expected out of a woman; she has great potential and a unique, powerful role. After all, like men, women were created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26-27) for a specific purpose.
Biblically, women are blessed with the opportunity to flourish and thrive under the leadership of a Godly husband. We aren’t to be laden with the responsibility of providing and protecting a family in the way that a man is. We are given the freedom to follow and find happiness without many of the burdens of men’s curses (Gen 3:17). So women, let me ask, why do we fight against this blessing? Instead of accepting a gift intended to make our lives easier through the perfection of God’s plan, we reject it in favor of a life of toil trying to live a life that we weren’t designed for. Rather than carrying our end of the bargain and letting the head do what it’s supposed to, we would like to do our part as well as the mans. Or, at our biggest shift, we completely neglect the responsibilities of our own role and swap them for the role of the Head.
We are the bride of Christ. Whether male or female, we are the helper, never the head. It’s God’s job to protect and provide for us. He, and only He, offers salvation and sustenance. God doesn’t NEED our help to complete his purposes, but he has enlisted us as helpers to carry out his mission across the earth. We are to depend on him and let him lead, while following faithfully as a good wife does a Godly husband. We aren’t in control, but by assuming authority that isn’t ours, we emasculate God and deny him His rightful position in our life. Although this sounds scary (and torturous to some) it, like being the wife in a human covenant relationship, should come as a relief to us. The realization that we don’t have to carry the weight that God bears should be a beacon of hope, relaxation and peace to us. We get the blessing of being a helper in God’s ministry, with the ultimate assurance, provision and protection found in the head, Jesus Christ.
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Coming from a strong holiness background, feelings often include guilt, shame, fear, and self-condemnation (to name a few). I met God before I was old enough to remember. I asked Him into my heart… many times (for fear that salvation wasn’t real the first time and, whether by fluke or my own fault, I would end up in hell). Then I lived a yo-yo life for the subsequent decade. A few months would be spent away from the church… (It’s the strangest thing, I would tell my mom, I get sick EVERY Sunday!). Then, for some odd reason, I would fly back into the church of my own accord, spend a couple months faithfully attending, and make sure to condemn the rest of my family for not being as holy as I was. It took 14 (or so) years of Christianity before I really, wholeheartedly committed my life to Christ. It was at this point that all guilt, shame, fear, and self-condemnation fled in the name of Jesus!... Yeah right.
I spent two years, as my denomination would say, as a sanctified believer. But there was still no freedom. Now there weren’t only a list of things I wasn’t aloud to do, but there were also a huge list of things I was required to do. Each day I had to read my bible; I never could seem to pray enough; I liked attending church and ministry events, but if I missed one I felt bad; I had to act like I loved everyone, even if I didn’t; etc, etc etc. In Hebrews 9:9 it says, “the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper.” Shortly following, the scriptures say, “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices which can never take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:11).
No matter how much I advance in any given area, no matter how many things I achieve, no matter how close to holiness I can fight on my own, I will never be satisfied in my successes because they are still a failure in the grand scheme. I will never be able to feel secure in my salvation and relationship with God simply because I achieve a high level of spiritual discipline. Rather, I will wind up resenting God for a standard he wasn’t responsible for imposing on me.
“For this reason [the law] can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins.” (Hebrews 10:1-3)
We know the textbook answers; I knew them. I was told that Christ died for me and took away my sins. I was taught that we were a part of a new covenant in which Jesus’ blood paid it all. I was forgiven and accepted all that time I wandered through the majority of my life thus far. But I wasn’t walking in the freedom of Christ. I wasn’t living like I’d “been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10) I hadn’t internalized that “because [of] one sacrifice He has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14) I was a part of the new covenant, but still living by the old.
Holiness is a good thing. But taken out of the context of freedom in Christ, we are left with legalism. If we begin to fall in love with Christ and his glory we WILL live holy, but it won’t be by our own power and volition. Salvation doesn’t flow out of works. Rather, out of love and relationship with Christ flows perseverance, confidence, sincerity, purity, clean consciences, freedom from guilt and condemnation, faith instead of fear, light instead of darkness. The beauty of it all is once we unify ourselves with God, He fights for our success instead of us fighting against his grace.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Really, we don't operate with many needs. There are plenty of wants, but when it comes to needs we tend to be dependent solely upon ourselves and our own capabilities. We know that a job equals an income and an income equals provision. We know that if you want to get a good career you should go to college first. We know that in order to be happy in life we should be able to afford a good house and buy the things that should fulfill us. We know that if you have sex you could get pregnant. We know that if you break the law it will likely cost you (in more ways than one). We know that if we get drunk we could end up doing all sorts of stuff we wouldn't have done in sound mind. We know that if we cheat on our boyfriend/girlfriend/spouse/etc that we are heaping a web of issues upon ourselves.
We are taught cause and effect from a young age. We are tested on it in elementary school. But another thing we are taught is how to wiggle out of these same rules and consequences. We can freeload off of each other or our parents and not have to deal with growing up and getting a good career. We can seek the new American dream and putter around in college getting a partying degree. We can avoid the outcomes of sex through all sorts of contraceptives and recon plans. We break all sorts of traffic violations, but never get caught thanks to radar detectors. We drink, then choose to ignore much we may have humiliated ourselves. We cheat and then keep it a secret or lie our way even further into it.
Often times we find ourselves stuck between a rock and a hard place because there isn't an absolute that is easily settled upon. We live in an age where my truth is mine and your truth is yours. If I can put a strong enough rationale behind my point of view to convince myself I'm doing okay, then others can do the same. We are all "free" to live our lives any way we want, in the name of justice and truth.
In Joshua 9 a group of men living nearby come to deceive Joshua and the Israelites. They know the Isrealites are dominating every kingdom in the area and are worried they will be next... unless they can make a peace treaty. In order to trick the Israelites, they purposefully appear as if they are from a distant land (thus, not a threat) by manipulating their appearance. The men wear old clothing and use old wine-skins, as if they have been weathering through the whole trip. They bring rotten bread, as if it has been aging through a long journey, in hopes that it will assure the Israelites to trust them. In Joshua 9:14-15 it says, "The men of Israel sampled their provisions but did not inquire of the Lord. Then Joshua made a treaty of peace with them to let them live, and the leaders of the assembly ratified it by oath."
I can just hear the internal monologue of the men making this decision. Everything checked out. They felt justified in making a decision of peace with these men; after all, they were only ordered by God to destroy the men residing in the land that had been given to them. These men are from a far away land, it could be good to make friends. We know this because they are carrying old bread... it must have been a long time they were on the road! Look at these wine-skins, they are cracked and aged... what a long journey! Look at their clothes, they are worn with travel. Not only did the Israelites feel justified in their decision, but they probably felt godly. They probably felt like they were making a merciful decision. They felt empowered. They felt in control. They carefully took all rational and physical evidence into account, weighed the possible outcomes, and made a decision . Its the same thing we do on a daily, no hourly, basis... and it's fine.....
Unless you consider God. There's a change that happens in us when we decide to surrender our will to God's will. If we are truly consecrated to the Lord then we go where he goes, we do what he does, we make the decisions that he prompts. Often the thing that God wants is so very different from the thing we have been taught all our lives. The will of God tends to go against our natural, selfish thinking. The things God wills for us lie in faith, not control on our part. What God wants is the inquiring heart. Joshua and his men "did not inquire of the Lord." then made a decision completely on their own. The consequences of this? A lack of protection, separation between them and God, the struggle of being out of the will of God, the possibility of missing what God really wanted because they took their own path, and, perhaps most frustrating of all, being stuck later trying to remedy the situation within the confines of our own ill-made decision.
Although what God wants for us tends to be counter-culture and not solely based on the solutions we ourselves work out, it usually is still rooted in rational, logical, and moral thought (depending on your definition of these terms). But the path is different for those of us in the Spirit than it is for humans as a separate entity. We are supposed to get to the correct decision through inquiry, by means of the Lord's leading. It's a matter of choosing between the best that we can muster up for ourselves, or simply the best. Period. The solution to our questions may be the same as we previously thought, but in communion with the Lord it takes on a new power. Or maybe the solution is to make a 180 degree turn. The solution may be patience or it could be action. It could be letting up or pushing forward. But how will we know unless we INQUIRE, honestly seeking the heart of the Lord. So what "will" will it be?
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Really, I don't understand much. I don't understand why we are even here or how I am supposed to spend my time. I don't understand the difference between what I should be doing and what I don't have to.
I know quite a lot. . . But those truths aren't necessarily internalized. I know what I am supposed to believe, but still you seem far away.
Here we are again, back at the foundation I seem to find myself fallen prone on time and time again. The place where I wonder what could be so wrong with me that I've ended up feeling this way. The place where I labor over what I should be doing to make things better or to bring security and happiness back. . . I suppose this place is here to remind me that I need you.
Funny how I seek dependency on you all my life. I pray things like "Lord, I want to be more dependent on you!" or "Lord, bring deeper dependency." Then when life, ministry, relationships, everything gets to that out of control needy place, I begin frantically praying prayers of reversal. "Oh Lord, calm this situation down!" "Fix it!" "I can't handle this!!"
You finally get to a point where you need me. The place where everything is out of control and each day you can't function without me in your life. Do you remember what you have spent all this time praying for? You are finally entering into things that will fail if I don't show up to do them. You are actually becoming dependent.
Maybe it's time I start training myself to see the "out of control" positively. I should learn to thank God for my inabilities and the need to pray.
Again, I know this... but we'll see how well I actually believe it.
Saturday, August 20, 2011
I wrote the following thoughts last month after a friend of mine drown while on a camping trip with a group of us. I had stored away the writing in my journal and hadn’t revisited it since. Today, I felt lead to type it up and post it. Just as I typed the last sentence and put the period on the end, I received a text saying that another friend of mine just passed away this morning. Interesting how things like that work out. It is my prayer that she knew the Lord and is joyfully joining Zane and Jesus, rather than the alternative. I hope the following words help.
In death, life begins to run a little bit more like God intended. When you lose a loved one, you grieve for them, mourn, wail, and cry for them. It isn’t controllable. It just overwhelms you with sorrow.
In death, community is greater. You need one another. You need assurance, love and unity. People’s personal bubbles grow smaller and it doesn’t matter how well you know each other, hugging bonds you together rather than creating the awkwardness of undesired intimacy.
The last thing on your mind is getting tasks done. You do what you need to do to get by and there is no guilt in not taking care of anything else.
Compassion grows. You see those around you suffer and their needs are valued as if they were your own because in that time, you are one.
It doesn’t matter what you are wearing, or if you hair is dried and fixed. It doesn’t even matter if you smell terrible and are going out covered in beach sand. It just doesn’t matter.
When someone dies, it feels like everything is surreal. Nothing seems to make sense and grasping any greater concept is an elusive task.
But perhaps, even in the confusion, this is the realist time of all. The time when all of life’s follies disappear and we are confronted with the vanity of our lives on this earth. Life and death is all that matters when it comes down to it. Leaving this earth should be a joyous occasion. But instead, we mourn the loss of what we perceive could have been. We mourn the career he could have had, the wife he could have loved, the kids he could have raised, forgetting that the things we find comfort in on this earth don’t compare in any way to the joy he experiences in constantly worshiping Jesus in person.
He isn’t sad. He isn’t longing. He isn’t wanting. He isn’t waiting.
He loves life abundantly.
Paul said, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know. I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and to be with Christ, which is better by far, but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.” (Phil. 1:21-26)
It is a comfort to know that in Christ we aren’t faced with live and death. But it should be our joy to use all the time we’ve been given, whether long or short to lead others to the same blessed fate. Whether it is a job, an argument, a task, a funky mood, a fear, laziness, hurt, pain, or whatever else, when we are truly hit with the reality of life and death, priorities seem to work themselves out.