Saturday, January 30, 2010

Glow-in-the-Dark Christianity:

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the Testimony in His hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant, because he had spoken with the Lord. 

I’ve always tried to imagine what this verse meant exactly when speaking of Moses radiance.  I picture his face bright and golden, light exuding from underneath his skin, like something glow-in-the-dark.  I wonder how bright it was, and how it felt.  But no matter the details, one thing is for sure- everyone noticed. 

According to Exodus 34, when Aaron and the rest of the people noticed, they were a bit freaked out.  They weren’t sure what to expect because something about him was drastically different. 
There had been a noticeable change.

I don’t know about you but there is something overtly challenging about this passage.  The reality is, when we meet face to face with God- there should be a drastic change.  There should be a noticeable difference.  There should be something that happens to us that causes others to observe a change.  There should be a radiance about us, emanating the essence of who our God is.  When we leave His presence, some part of that presence must go with us. 

For Moses, it was a brightness, a physical light for all to see.  A brightness having nothing to do with the words he spoke, and everything to do with the light he displayed.  For us, that light can come in so many forms.  Selflessness.  Patience.  Love.  Peace.  Joy.  Kindness.  Gentleness.  God’s spirit is unique.  God’s spirit causes a change in us.  It causes us to radiate with His presence, not because of who we are or what we say, but because of who He is in our lives. 

The beauty of this passage is that Moses had no idea that anything had changed.  He had no idea that others saw the mark of a Holy God on his life.  The only way that he was able to realize was due to the reactions of those around him.  They knew he had been with God without him saying a word. 

Christians, may you be empowered to live a life that radiates that presence of your God.  May you be challenged to leave His presence changed, allowing it to infiltrate every part of your being.  May you be inspired to embrace a life that penetrates the darkness of sin with the light of Christ.  May you be fueled to live in such a way that causes the people around you to seek the face of God.  May you be ignited to display His radiant love through your life today and every day. 

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Toxic Relationships:

Some thoughts I wrote for Relevant Magazine about toxic relationships and how to break free of them. 

Feel free to pass it along.

Toxic Relationships:

Friday, January 22, 2010

From Signs to Spirit:

Exodus 13:21
By day the LORD went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night.

Isaiah 30:21
Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, "This is the way; walk in it.

We are facing some life-changing decisions.  It seems as though the moment we have crossed one fork in the road we are faced with yet another.  The question of direction can be a very daunting thing.

For us, decisions in the past have always been pretty clear.  Life seemed to narrow down choices on its own.  When the time came for decisions to be made, there was usually only one choice to make- and we walked in it.  It was like the Israelites, walking behind the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night.  There was one choice, and more than anything, choosing to walk on that path was simply a matter of obedience.

But you see, God is taking us on a whole new journey from the level of obedience and into the realm of faith.  Where before there were signs to guide us along the way, now there are none.  Where before we learned to rely on the tangible, now we are left to rely on His Spirit.  For me, that takes the exercise of a whole new spiritual muscle.  A whole new level of intercession.  A whole new level of sensitivity and intimacy that comes with hearing God’s voice. 

I’ve learned that many times, God will give us signs.  Signs to ease our hearts, signs to guide us to the next step, signs to remind us that He can be trusted. But I’ve also learned that many times, God will refrain from giving us signs.  He will refrain in order to take us into greater passion with Him.  He will refrain in order to teach us how to become dependent on Him alone.  He will refrain….to show us that He can be trusted.

Now is the time to walk in what we know.  Now is the time to remember the provision of the past and be confident in that provision for the future.  Now is the time to take the signs we have lived by and exchange them for His spirit.  Exchange them for more of Him. 

So take heart, and know that whether you walk to the right, or to the left, you will hear a voice from behind saying this is the way, walk in it.  It’s His promise.  Listen for Him.   

Lord, take us into new levels of faith.  Where there were once signs may you guide us now with your Spirit.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sacrifice & Steak N' Shake: Giving Until It Hurts

Ephesians 5:1-2 
Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

One of my favorite people is a 16 year old girl I met almost 3 years ago named Neisha.  I met her one morning at the Saturday ministry I do.  Neisha lives in a rough neighborhood, to say the least, and her life has been far from easy. 

She got pregnant at age 12 and birthed her beautiful baby girl when she was only 13.  When I first met Neisha, I must admit I was a little put off by her abrasiveness.  She’s a little rough around the edges, hardened you could say, and to be honest- rightly so.  For her, life has proven itself to be unpredictable, and people- untrustworthy. 

But so began our unlikely friendship.  At first I would see her on Saturdays…and then our time together began to expand into the week- week night ice cream trips, dinner and a walk in the park, local carnivals and fairs with her and her daughter.  We spent more time together, and my love for her began to grow in an unexpected way.

A few months ago, I was visiting Neisha and I asked her to recall one of the happiest times in her life.  I always ask her questions about her life because frankly, I like to ask questions. 

She paused for a moment and then looked at me in all seriousness and said, “That day you took me and my baby out to Steak and Shake.  I was really happy that day.”

It took me a moment to grasp what she was actually saying.  It took me a moment…and then I was dumbfounded.  I was speechless.  I was amazed, honored, and saddened all at once. 

I realized that for this beautiful 16 year old girl, happy moments were few and far between.  In fact, there was very little in her life for which to be happy.  Neglect, abuse, violence, prejudice and hate were the norm. 

I realized in that moment that all it took to bring a joyful moment into her life was spending $10 bucks at a burger joint on a lazy Tuesday evening. 

God really shook me up with that answer…because in all honesty, there is so much more that I can be doing.  Imagine if I invested more of my time, of my love, of my life?  Imagine if I actually began to SACRIFICE for love, rather than just a few convenient evenings or Saturday mornings?  Imagine what would happen if I chose to give even more, to give until it actually cost me something?

Our Lord came to this earth for nothing but love.  He came, and He gave everything. He held nothing back.  He gave until it hurt.  He gave sacrificially.  There was nothing convenient about it.  There was nothing in His sacrifice that even considered himself for a moment.  It was pure love.  It was sacrificial love. 

I’m challenged…to live in such a way.  I am challenged to give of my love in a sacrificial way.  In a way that goes far above and beyond the level of “convenience” and into the level of sacrificial.  For me, that requires quite a leap of faith.  Faith that when I do give in that way- God will take care of the rest.

It’s easy to be a Christian that simply gives.  We can give some of our time and our money and pat ourselves on the back for it if we want.  It would make us feel better wouldn’t it?  But it’s not enough.  It’s not enough to give when it costs us very little. We must be a people who live as imitators of God…living a sacrificial life of love. 

So the question is, what's it costing you? 

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Real Hunger, Real Purpose:

John 4:34
"My food," said Jesus, "is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work.”

I met a girl young recently who was plagued by the question of purpose.  Her spirit was hungry for something more, something more than this life was offering her.  She found herself waking up in the middle of the night with an aching desire for something deeper. 

On the one hand, it’s sort of strange that this need for purpose haunted her in the middle of the night.  But on the other hand, it makes sense.  The middle of the night is when our minds have kicked into slow gear.  When things are finally still.  When the distractions have died down and the noises have subsided.  There, in the quiet of the night, her spirit was finally heard crying out that it needed something more.

I believe many people can relate to that longing.  We all want to find meaning in this world.  We want our existence to be validated.  Our souls are hungry for purpose. 

Jesus understood this hunger, a hunger that supersedes the physical.  A hunger that could only find satisfaction in one thing: doing God’s work. 

John Chapter 14 describes a scene where Jesus is speaking to the Samaritan woman.  A woman who had experienced the injustice and maltreatment of her society.  A woman who was considered a cast away and whore.  A woman whose own sin had buried her deep into the pits of shame. 

The disciples were so distracted by their physical hunger, so distracted by the “noise” of their stomachs growling that they missed the true feast at which Jesus was partaking.  Jesus was offering love to one who had not known love.  He was offering life to a woman who had been dead in her sins.  He was doing the will of His father; He was feasting on food that would satisfy.

What about you?  Are you feasting on the food of God’s work in your life?  Are you focused on living a life completely sold out to God’s will? Do you find yourself satisfied and your spiritual appetites satiated with His love working its way in and back out of your life? Or are you still hungry?  Are you still longing for more?

Maybe you so distracted by the physical growling of your earthly stomachs that you are missing the hunger pangs of a whole new kind of feast.  Maybe you are ruled by the longings for the material rather than the spiritual. Maybe you find that if you are really honest with yourself, you discover that your purpose has become blurred by the tangible. 

It’s time to take a real hard look at ourselves and ask if we can wholeheartedly proclaim that we are satisfied in nothing else…but “doing the will of Him who sent [us]”. 

This is real purpose.  Feast on it.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

He Has Moved Our Mountains: On Faith

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.

Tomorrow is match day.  The long awaited day for John and I.  The day that we have been waiting for for the past four years, it seems. The day where the haze of the next few years of our life will finally become clear.

The theme of this past year for us can be summed up into one word: Faith.  We've learned what real faith is.  We've learned to develop a certainty in something far beyond us. Faith is not simply a "wishful hope" it is an assurance.  This is the first time in my life that I can say I've understood that in a deep and personal way.  I wrote a few thoughts in my journal today...and I wanted to share them:

"...2009 has been the year of our greatest trust- but also the year of greatest blessing.  

As we gave to God financially, he poured on His blessing.
As we gave more of ourselves, he allowed us to experience His power.
As we gave Him our trust, he grew our faith and performed miracles.
As we gave Him our occupations, He opened doors and provided in ways we could have never imagined.  We were without need.

Tomorrow morning we get a glimpse of the next step God has in store for our lives.  If anything, God has proven to us again and again this year that HE CAN BE TRUSTED.  With the great and with the small.  

This journey that He has in store for us next will be a good one- we can have complete faith in that.  And in the end, true faith breeds more faith.  What a lesson that has been to learn...

...we have given Him our small seeds of faith, and He has moved our mountains."

May you, too, wherever you are in your journey, find yourself certain in God alone.  Whether your journey is coming to and end, just beginning, or whether you are in the painful middle...may He give you what you need to persevere, nurturing your seeds of faith until the end.  May you learn with every fiber of your being that HE can be trusted. 

May He prove Himself to you today....this week...this year...and for the rest of your life.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

When Prayer Puts you to Sleep:

1 Thessalonians 5:17
Pray continually...

Our church is a part of a community-wide time of fasting and prayer, in hopes of seeing breakthrough in different parts of our lives.  In hopes bringing us to a place where our hungry souls are feeding on Him alone.

There is so much to be said of fasting and prayer.  Today, I’m focusing on the prayer.

I must admit, out of all of the spiritual disciplines- for me, prayer is the most difficult.  When it comes to finding a time to simply “be still” before God- for someone as active as me it can be as devastating as a sentence into solitary confinement. 

My mind wanders, my eyelids get heavy, my thoughts are distracted, and I’m bombarded with the many tangible things I could be doing in place of this intangible act. 

And this, you see, is the foundation of all my problems with prayer.  Because the fruit of prayer is not always felt instantaneously, because my requests are not always granted immediately, because there is no material evidence that something is being accomplished- it is easy to slip into the lie that prayer is “insubstantial”.

In order for that lie to be countered, it must be battled with truth:

Prayer is significant because prayer is relational. 

Just because I am not “accomplishing” anything with friends, does not mean that my time was ill spent.  In fact, some of my favorite moments with my husband involve the two of us sitting together, talking, being still with one another, my head resting on his shoulder.  They are intimate moments.  Moments that I would never in a million years trade for even the greatest of accomplishments. 

My favorite description of prayer is put best by Brennan Manning in his book The Ragamuffin Gospel:

“A little child cannot do a bad coloring.  Nor can a child of God do a bad prayer.  A father is delighted when his little one, leaving off her toys and friends, runs to him and climbs into his arms.  As he holds his little one close to him, he cares little whether the child is looking around, her attention flitting from one thing to another, or just settling down to sleep.  Essentially the child is choosing to be with her father, confident of the love, the care, the security that is hers in those arms. 

Our prayer is much like that.  We settle down in our Father’s arms, in his loving hands.  Our mind, our thoughts, our imagination may flit about here and there; we might even fall asleep, but essentially, we are choosing for this time to remain intimately with our Father, giving ourselves to him, receiving his love and care, letting him enjoy us as he will.  It is a very simple prayer.  It is a very childlike prayer.  It is prayer that opens us out to all the delights of the kingdom.”

May you crawl into your Father’s lap and simply enjoy His presence.  And may you feel the abundance of His love for you today. 

Question for Response: What are some ways to improve the discipline of prayer?

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Seeing is Believing:

John 20:29 (read entire passage here)
 “Because you have seen me, you have believed;
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed”

“It’s too hard to believe”.  He lay on his back on the hospital bed and spoke with a cracking voice, trying to hold back the tears.  “How can I believe in Him, when everyday I ask Him to take away the pain, and He never does.  I am like the blind man…asking Jesus for sight”. 

This young man had truly known the meaning of pain.  Memories of covering up dark bruises all over his body, with long sleeves and pants- even in the middle of summer, to hide his pain.  Hearing the echoes of worthlessness and degradation coming from the lips of the only two people who were supposed to cherish and love him.  Having come from a severely abusive family, he had never understood the meaning of true love.  He had never experienced compassion and care at the hands of another and his heart was wounded. 

“How can I believe in someone I can’t see, can’t feel, and can’t talk to?”

The reality is that some will never believe.  Some will never believe until they see, until they feel, until they hear.  Just like Thomas, they have faced great disappointment, with heads hung low; hearts weary; and hopes shattered.  “I cannot believe…unless I see”.

The Son of Man came to be seen, to be heard, to be felt.  He came to gather the weak, and show them His strength.  He came to touch the blind, and give them sight.  He came to touch the wounded ear and allow it to hear once again.  As Jesus called for the hand of Thomas, He called him to come and see; touch; feel; and know.  He called him to live.  He called him to believe.  Jesus met Thomas where he was at, he offered him what he needed and in the end Thomas boldly proclaimed: “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

All around us we are met by those who will not believe unless they see; unless they feel; unless they hear.  All around us are those who like Thomas, are longing to believe, if only they could see.  It is our eyes that they must look into, to see the Compassion and Hope.  It is our hands that they must touch for Strength and Courage.  It is our words that they must cling to, to hear the Truth that frees.  It is our love they must feel, to point them to their Lord. 

We are all that they will see...may we cause them to believe. 

Question for reflection: Which doubting Thomas's surround you?  What kind of life are you living to meet their doubt?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Don't Get Robbed: The Mistake Moses made

Exodus 4:11-14
“The LORD said to him, "Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say."
But Moses said, "O Lord, please send someone else to do it." Then the LORD's anger burned against Moses and he said, "What about your brother, Aaron the Levite?"

Lately I’ve been camping out in the book of Exodus.  It’s amazing how reading the bible in different seasons of life brings out a whole new meaning and perspective to even the most familiar passages. 

This was one of those new seasons for me.  I’m reading the story of Moses.  I’ve probably read it over a dozen times, and watched the Charleston Heston version on TV over 25 times.  But this time I noticed something that I have never noticed before: Moses got robbed.

I don’t mean tangibly, in a monetary way.  I mean spiritually.  You see, God himself appeared to Moses through a burning bush.  God himself.  I can’t say I have that kind of experience on a daily basis. 

But as though that were not enough, God offered Moses something.  He offered him Himself.  “I will help you speak…I will teach you what to say…”.  Funny thing is, for Moses- that wasn’t enough.

He wanted the tangible.  He wanted help he could see, and feel, and touch.  He wanted assurance in human things, in familiar things, in physical things.  And at the end of the exchange, Moses exchanged the direct help of God himself…for the help of his brother Aaron. 

The funny thing is, I never really saw this passage that way before.  It completely boggles my mind.  I’m thinking, “Seriously, Moses?  Seriously?  You would rather have the help of your random brother than the help of God himself?”  It made no sense to me in the moment.  How foolish.  How weak.  How lacking in faith. 

But, like usual as I’m reading God’s word…the tables are turned.  “What about you, Deb?  I offer you myself every day, and many days that is not enough.”

And God was right.

There are so many days and seasons in my life where I am trying to believe, longing for faith, longing for more of God…and wanting some extra assurance on the side.

That extra financial boost, that relationship, that apology from a friend, that test grade, that approval.  There are so many times that I want the tangible more than I want the spiritual.  And just like Moses, that exchange is always a poor and pitiful choice.

You see, when we are relying on the tangible, we are missing so much of what God wants to do with us.  We are missing intimacy with Him in a powerful way.  An intimacy that can only come with Him guiding, Him leading, Him whispering in our ear.  Him speaking to us, and Him teaching us. 

But instead, we opt for what we can see, what we can feel, what we can touch.  We opt for the familiar.  And in the end, we, like Moses, get robbed.  We get robbed of knowing God in a deep and powerful way.  We get robbed of the opportunities to grow in our faith, in our trust, and in our reliance on Him and Him alone.

God didn’t argue with Moses.  He got angry at his lack of faith.  He was probably hurt by it.  But he didn’t argue.  Instead, he gave him the tangible instead.  He allowed Moses to choose whether he would have more of God, or more of what was comfortable.

What about you?  What assurances are you holding on to that are taking the place of God?  What tangible things are you leaning on when you should be leaning on Him? 

May we have faith to let go of the tangible, and exchange them for more of the supernatural.  For more of Him.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Who's Following Who?

Proverbs 16:9
In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord who determines his steps.

“We can’t just do whatever we want and then ask God to bless it.  No, we must ask Him what He wants us to do, and in that way-  it is always blessed.“- Faith Like Potatoes Documentary

I’ve been thinking a lot about this idea.  I believe if we could truly grasp the meaning of this concept our lives would be transformed.

So many times we get caught up in wondering why God isn’t blessing what we are doing, why He hasn’t answered our prayers, why He hasn’t done what we expect of Him. 

We blame ourselves: if only we could have more faith, if only we could be better people, if only we could sin a little bit less….then maybe things would go our way. 

We blame ourselves, and then when that doesn’t work- we blame God.  What in the world is He doing up there anyway?  Does He even hear our prayers?  If God is so good then why doesn’t he answer me?  Prosper me?  Bless me?

I think that we have it all backwards. Who is following who?

Our controlling, self-centered nature doesn’t grasp the magnitude and meaning behind this little verse: it is the Lord who determines our steps. 

He’s in charge.  He’s in control.  He knows the way.  He has the course in mind.  He can see what we cannot.  He knows what’s up ahead.  And better yet, His plans are greater, higher, more noble, and more remarkable than ours could ever be. 

Why is it we forget that? Why is it that we continue to pout, expecting Him to just follow along with our undersized dreams?  Why is it that we continue to plan, confused that He doesn’t allow us to get our petty and trivial way?  Why is it that we want Him to bless our agendas, not realizing that if He does- we are settling for much smaller portions than he intended?

I wonder how much we have missed because He has allowed us to have our way. 

One thing I know for sure: this year, things are going to be different.  Not just because it’s January 1st, 2010 and I’m inspired- no, but because I am choosing for them to be different. 

I am choosing to follow Him.  I am choosing to listen to His voice.  I am choosing to ask for His direction. I am choosing to look first to Him to guide the way.  I am choosing to refrain from taking one single step unless He has commanded me to. 

Because when He determines the path, failure is not an option.  When He determines the path, faith can manifest into complete confidence.  When He determines the path, there is no fear in what lies ahead…because He has tread it Himself.