Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Still Alive:

Just a note to all my faithful friends and blog readers out there...this blog is still alive. 

This has been a busy season in life, and I haven't had much time to write.  Thank you all for reading, and for your continued comments and support throughout. 

I can't wait to get back to writing!  In the mean-time, please share any verses you have been contemplating on or learning from...I would love to hear what God is doing in your lives and it will help spark some of my future devotions.

Thanks for your faithfulness. 

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Free to Forgive: If Joseph did it- so can you...

Genesis 45: 4-5; 15
"I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold into Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you...

...And he kissed all his brothers and wept over them. Afterward his brothers talked with him."

On our anniversary, my husband and I went to a show put on by Sight and Sound Theaters portraying the life of Joseph.  It was awesome, to say the least, and I highly recommend everyone taking the time to go see it.

There was something really special about seeing the life of this man in "real life".  It's easy to read through the story in Genesis and make light of the severity of experiences that Joseph lived through.

But beyond the severe dysfunction of Joseph's entire family, the betrayal by his brothers, being sold into slavery and totally disowned, and spending years of his life in jail...there was something glorious about the story of Joseph.  Sure, he had high points in his life as well - being second in command to Potiphar and Pharaoh, having all of Egypt at his fingertips, and being powerful beyond any man...his real moment of power came at the very end of the story.

His real moment of power came when he forgave.  You never consider the anguish that Joseph must have experienced when he finally saw his brothers again after years of isolation.  The betrayal, the pain, the rejection and the heartache that came with seeing their faces and hearing their voices.  You never consider the memories that must have come flooding back, and the feelings that he had managed to stuff away for years.

For Joseph, seeing his brothers again opened the flood gates of the pain in his past.  Pain that was so severe and unjust.  Pain that he had carried around for many years.  Pain that he was no longer willing to claim as his own.   

It's hard to wrap my brain around this kind of forgiveness.  Forgiveness that is not granted based on the merit of the one(s) receiving it.   Forgiveness that is not based on the abilities of the one releasing it.  It is forgiveness founded solely in a supernatural grace that Jesus Christ bestows upon his desperate children. 

He bestows it because he understands the salvation that comes when we are able to let go.  He bestows it because He knows how un-forgiveness can rot the soul and destroy the spirit.  He bestows it because he knows that ultimately, that is where freedom can be found.  He bestows it, because he too has been rejected, abandoned, forsaken and misunderstood...yet he forgave. 

It's true that unforgiveness is like an acid that destroys the container which harbors it.  It's easy to become that tight-sealed container, holding on to our bitterness for dear life.  But at the end of the day, for us to truly be men and women who are free- we must be willing to pour it out.  We must be willing to let go of the power that others have over our lives on account of our bitterness. 

Not because others are deserving of our forgiveness...but because we are undeserving of bitterness.  We deserve better than that.  We deserve freedom.  We deserve peace.  We deserve forgiveness. 

Lord, grant us the power to forgive. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Two Are Better Than One: (Hang in there you Single ones....)

Ecclesiastes 4:9-10
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: If one falls down, his friend can help him up. 

[***Disclaimer: If you are single...don't tune me out.  Read to the end.  There's some good application for you at the very end...and try not to gag in the meantime]

Today is my wedding anniversary.  My husband John and I have been married for three wonderful years.  It's hard to believe that the time has gone by so quickly, yet at the same time it feels as though we have been together forever.  It feels right.  It has since the beginning. 

Many years ago I didn't believe in soul-mates.  I wasn't sure if God had one person planned out for each of Adam and Eve.  But when I met John my perspective on this took on a transformation.  It feels too right for it to be some sort of coincidence or "good match".  It feels like destiny...what I was made for.  I was made for him, and he for me.

I used to believe that singleness was the "better route".  Don't get me wrong, I had a strong desire for marriage, but I always wondered whether or not I was sacrificing my relationship with God in order to be married.  I'm glad my perspective changed on this topic, because in marriage I have found depth to my relationship with God that I could have never imagine existed. 

Two are better than one in so many ways.  First of all, my husband encourages me.  He picks me up when I am down.  He fuels my spiritual fire when it feels like burning out.  He makes me laugh when I am sad, and challenges me to keep going when my strength has run out. 

Secondly, my husband sharpens me.  He is the mirror I need to see my flaws...some flaws I would have never been able to see alone.  Because, deep down we all think we're perfect.  We need someone to give us a reality check every now and again and gently remind us of who we really are. 

Thirdly, my husband loves me.  His love is the most tangible thing I have ever experienced to the love of Jesus Christ.  In so many ways, when I look at my husband, I see the qualities of Jesus.  He challenges me to love him in this kind of way.  To love severely, selflessly, richly, and fully.  To love with no strings attached.  To love the way our Lord Jesus loved everything so willingly and without reservation.

Now that I am married, I feel that both my love for and my service to God have found a new avenue for growth.  And in a good marriage- that's how it's supposed to be.  Two are better than one in so many ways.  There has to be proof of that in every day life. 

The beauty of this companionship, though, is that it isn't limited to just marriage.  In fact, it shouldn't be.  Whether single or married we need people in our lives to encourage us, to sharpen us, and to love us.  This concept is found all over the New Testament with the focus on community and companionship among believers.  My last post on community highlights this idea. 

And for those of you who are surrounded by community, but single...and waiting....continue to wait.  There is nothing more glorious than being married to the right person.  But there is nothing more miserable than being married to the wrong person.  I see this sad reality every day in my counseling office.  Women and men who are in agony and pain because they didn't wait patiently for God's best.  Lives shattered, destroyed, and broken because they settled for less than best. 

So wait for the best.  Wait for the best because you are worth it.  Wait for the best because you deserve it.  Wait for the best because it's out there and in God's perfect timing, you too, will experience this kind of companionship.

And for those of you who are happily married...take time today for an anniversary of sorts.  Take time today to remember and cherish the gift that God has given you in your spouse.  Take time today to encourage them, to sharpen them, and to love them.  And take the time to let them know. 

I love you John Fileta.  Happy Anniversary my love. 

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Koinonia: On Christian Community vs. Isolation

Acts 2:42-47
They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the communion, to the breaking of bread and to prayer...All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need…They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I feel as though I need people.  On a certain level, I find that being around people brings a sense of freedom.  It allows me to take a step outside of myself (even if ever so briefly) and interact with others, considering them rather than me.

I believe community with others is one of the things that makes me a better Christian.  It is only when I am around people that I have to actively "hold my tongue" from speaking every foolish word that comes to my mind.  It is only in community that I have to deliberately put others first, considering them better than myself.  It is only in community that I am forced to love and be loved, to give of myself, and to learn how to be sensitive to the needs of others.  

I believe this is the reason Jesus encouraged community during his life here on earth.  Not only did he encourage it, he lived it out.  He created community wherever he went.  He allowed himself to not only rub elbows with the people around him, but to rub hearts.   

The word Koinonia is used to describe community in the Greek New Testament.  It is defined as "intimate participation" with others.

I don't know what your experience has been, but Koinonia is something that has been missing in my view of Westernized Christianity.  We have watered down "intimate participation" to the point where we consider community shaking the hand of the person in the pew next to us at church (and only when we are prompted to do so, mind you), and then going on our way.  I hardly call that intimate. 

We have lost something in the transition of generations, we have lost the giving and receiving of self...and in the process, we have lost a piece of Christ Jesus.

There is something powerful about joining with other believers.  There is something unexplainable that happens when God's spirit is united in men and women of different shapes, sizes and colors.  You see, we weren't made to do this Christian life alone, yet for some reason we keep trying.  

The people in Acts were filled with joy, praise, and gladness in their community while many American Christians are filled with loneliness, isolation, complaints, and dullness in their faith because they are trying to do it alone. 

It's not a personality type, or the difference between an introvert and an extrovert.  It's not a matter of location, schedules, or obligations.  Those are just likely excuses. We were all made for community if we allow ourselves to take a few steps outside of ourselves and try to live life Christ's way.

So go the extra mile.  Introduce yourself, make that phone call, invite them over for dinner, open your home to others, give of what you have to those who need it, do what it takes, but at the end of the day, seek to live a life of Koinonia, a life of intimate participation, a life of giving of yourself.