Saturday, April 30, 2011

Christians: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Part II)

Ephesians 5:2
Live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

I've come across a couple disappointing things that I feel I must share.  The first being the infamous Westboro Baptist Church, in their sad pursuit of picketing what they believe to be things that are not of God.  I read an article about a funeral they were planning to picket...and my heart sank.

It hurts to see groups like this proclaiming the name of Jesus...but living in a way that breaks His heart. 

I was reading a blog post I came along the other day written by a self-proclaimed Atheist He said:

"I am writing to express my confusion over how many Christians seem to act contrary to the words attributed to Jesus in the Bible. Christian extremists such as Jerry Falwell, James Dobson, and Pat Robertson preach intolerance and hatred. I cannot reconcile their message with what Jesus is reported to have said. But the problem goes way beyond a handful of extremists...

...Jesus had far more to say about how the poor should be treated than he did abortion or gay marriage."

I think he makes some great points.  

At the end of the day, this post isn't meant to pick out the extremists or to call them names.  It isn't to bash WBC or even to assess their hearts.  God is the only one who can see past our skin and into our souls.  We're all guilty at the end of the day for possessing this thing called sin.  But in the end, it's a reminder and a challenge that there is no such thing as loving TOO much.

Don Miller once wrote that sometimes we treat love as though it's a commodity.  Giving when we approve, withholding when we disapprove.  But true love has nothing to do with the one receiving that love, and everything to do with the one giving it.  The giver gives simply because he loves...though there may be nothing in return. 

Remember, He first loves us....while we were yet in sin.  Not after we changed.  Not after we saw the truth.  Not after we turned our lives around....(and even if we never did) but before.

We as Christians need to have more of that kind of love for the world and everyone in it.  A love that goes out as a fragrant offering, rather than a rancid stench. 

Thanks, my Atheist fellow blogger, for sharing your thoughts.  May it challenge all of us to simply learn to love more like the the the religious...and everyone in between.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Christians: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Part I)

Matthew 5:14-16
  14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  

16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

The word "Christian" has been slapped on so many things that it has lost it's true meaning.  It has been dissolved in the pool of men and woman that have labeled themselves by it's definition.  It's easy to get confused in the culture of modern day Christianity.  It's easy to be bombarded by the so many things "Christian" that Christ gets lost in the crowd. 

But then....then there are people that remind you of what it truly means to be a follower of Christ.  Then there are people who take the time to be transparent...pointing at Jesus through every aspect of their lives- the good, the bad, and even the ugly. 

Don't get me wrong- true Christ-followers aren't perfect...and they shouldn't claim to be.  But they are real.  They are faithful.  And they are consistent. 

I was reminded of what it meant to stand firm for Jesus this week watching one of my favorite TV shows: Survivor If you don't know anything about Survivor, it's one of the oldest in reality TV.  The idea is based on dropping a group of men and women in the middle of the jungles to fend for themselves for 39 days.  The person who makes it to the end, takes home the pride of being called the sole Survivor...and the bonus of one million dollars. 

Living in the wild for 39 days surrounded by a group of strangers is bound to take a toll on any and everyone.  The awful reality of the fallen human condition makes an appearance every season as the survivors interact with one another...lying, stealing, and cheating become the norm.  Tempers lash out, personalities clash, and emotions run wild.  It's humanity at its worst. 

But this season there is a young man that has totally impressed me with his life.  His name is Matt, and he is a self-proclaimed follower of Christ.  I tend to cringe when I hear people say that...I've seen so many people wear the name of Jesus, and then trample it through the mud.  But this guy is another story.

His faith is first and foremost in his life...and he proves that with his actions and his words.  He may be young, but there is a mature spirit of God upon His life, and everyone who comes into contact with him senses that.  He's respected for his strong faith...and by his kindness, he has been impacting the lives of the survivors around him with his faith in Jesus. 

Again and again you hear him talking about the reality that he has been put in this place for one purpose alone: to glorify his God.  

I know it's reality TV....but there is something genuine about this young guy.  There is something challenging about the way he lives his life.  For many of us, our life is the forefront...while our faith is the back drop.  We live our lives...and then sprinkle a little Christianity on top.  A little here, a little there..."just for the taste". 

But the reality is, this is not the way God meant for us to live.  We are born with a purpose- to be a light in the darkness.  That is a role that stands firm whether we are playing the game of Survivor, staying at home with our babies, or working 14 hour shifts at our jobs.  

It's a role that has to take the forefront of our lives in every thing we say and in everything we do.  Our lives must glow with the light of God...a light that is recognizable by everyone we come into contact with.  A light that speaks encouragement, hope, love, and faith to places that were once void and dark. 

Christian- Take inventory.  How bright has your light been shining?  How seriously have you taken this role?  How responsible have you been with the precious name that you carry...the precious name of Christ. 

May we be challenged to take seriously this calling that has been placed on our lives.  May we be challenged to live as light. 

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Holiday For Sinners:

Isaiah 53 The Message
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
   our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
   that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
   that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
   Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
   We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
   on him, on him. 

This past week has been cathartic for me.  I have felt a deep sense of freedom in the act of confession. The past few nights...during the latest hours...God has brought things to my mind that I have been hiding.

I wonder why things like this seem to happen to me so late at night.  Maybe it's because in those moments of deep fatigue that my heart is most vulnerable.  Maybe it's because those are the moments in which my energy is depleted, my guard is down, and I have no strength to fight.  It's by His grace that He meets me in those moments.  Moments in which His love cannot be countered by my pride.

The past few nights God has been revealing to me some things in my life that I really need to change.  He has showed me that I have a strong sense of insecurity that tends to run wild in my life.  A deep feeling of inadequacy that causes me to fear, to covet, to compare.  A feeling that tempts me to lie, to embellish, and to exaggerate.  A feeling that leads me to believe that I am not enough...or that I am small....insignificant, and weak.

My heart is sinful.  And these sins have a tendency to seep into my actions...into my relationships...into my life.

I've spent the past few days talking to my husband about these internal struggles and sins, asking for accountability, prayer, and encouragement.  I've confessed to my friends, in hopes of facing the darkness in my heart.  And now, I find myself confessing to the entire world...anyone who would take the time to read.

I am a sinner.  At the deepest part of who I am there is a constant battle between doing my will...and submitting to His.  I am a sinner, but at the end of the day I'm realizing that this a holiday for people just like me.

Liars.  Thieves.  Adulterers.  Those who can't control their anger.  Those who can't control their addictions.  Crooks.  Drunkards.  Idolaters.  Those struggling with their sexual lusts.  Those caught up in secret sins. 

This weekend is for us.  The sinners.  Those who have realized that they just can't do it on their own.  Those who have searcher their hearts and come to the realization that they are not as "good" as they thought they others thought they were. 

This weekend is for us.  The sinners.  Those who have come to see their great need for a Savior.  A God who would love them to the point of death.  A God who carried our pain, our failures, and our disfigurements.  A God who was crushed so that we could be healed. 

This weekend is for us.  The sinners.  The gift of His precious life.  The hope of freedom, salvation, and peace.  The hope healing...from our pain, our weaknesses, and our sinful states.  The hope of Jesus. 

Friday, April 22, 2011

What's so Good about Good Friday?

Isaiah 53:5
But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.

I couldn't help but feel saddened at the lack of gratitude this day brings for so many.  Having dinner with my husband this evening at a restaurant- it was sad to take in the meaninglessness of this day to the world around us.  Just another day.  Just another evening.

But, I can't point the finger.  I myself have struggle with the measure of gratitude that is required of a day such as today.  It's hard to really grasp such a sacrifice. 

It's known to America as "Good Friday"...

But it's goodness is not found in the Friday evening socializing at a restaurant.  Nor is it found in the "Easter" deals at the stores.  Though this weekend has been stamped in pastel colors, bunnies, and chocolates...the truth of the matter is that it was originally stamped in blood.

The Goodness of Good Friday is found only in one thing: Jesus.  The God who saw it necessary to come into our worlds in order to win us over with His relentless love.  The God who saw it fit to take our imperfections upon Himself so that we could be healed.

That is nothing short of marvelous.  

Though this day in history was once filled with sadness at the death of a beloved it is filled with all the gratitude I can muster.  I am grateful for a God who took it upon Himself to come and find me.  A God who counted my sinful, futile, meaningless life...more valuable than His.

A God who gives His life to me every single day in the form of relationship.  

Because of this life will never be the same.  

The servant grew up before God—a scrawny seedling,
   a scrubby plant in a parched field.
There was nothing attractive about him,
   nothing to cause us to take a second look.
He was looked down on and passed over,
   a man who suffered, who knew pain firsthand.
One look at him and people turned away.
   We looked down on him, thought he was scum.
But the fact is, it was our pains he carried—
   our disfigurements, all the things wrong with us.
We thought he brought it on himself,
   that God was punishing him for his own failures.
But it was our sins that did that to him,
   that ripped and tore and crushed him—our sins!
He took the punishment, and that made us whole.
   Through his bruises we get healed.
We're all like sheep who've wandered off and gotten lost.
   We've all done our own thing, gone our own way.
And God has piled all our sins, everything we've done wrong,
   on him, on him....Isaiah 53

Monday, April 18, 2011

Jesus Loves Porn Stars:

Luke 19:5-7

 5When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.” 6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. 

 7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a sinner.” 

I can't get over this book I'm reading, called "Jesus Loves You, This I Know" by Craig Gross and Jason Harper.  It is the book I would have written- if I had thought of it :)  It's filled with incredible stories of what it means to truly reach out and bring the love of Jesus to a lost and broken world.

This last chapter I read really touched my heart.  It's entitled, "Jesus Loves Porn Stars".  In this chapter, Craig writes about his unlikely friendship with one of America's number one Porn Stars: Ron Jeremy.  Through his friendship and interactions with Ron, Craig has gotten a lot of heat from the religious community- claiming that he is putting his family at risk or promoting the porn industry. 

I think just the opposite is happening.  Craig Gross (also known as the Porn Pastor) is bringing Jesus to broken and lost people in a real and tangible way.  You can find him hanging out at Porn Conferences, passing out bibles with his ministry team that say "Jesus Loves Porn Stars"....handing out thousands of God's Word, and meeting some really great people who need a Savior just as much as Craig...just as much as you...just as much as me. 

Jesus did just that.  He brought his love to those who needed it the most.  Christians have a tendency to decide for themselves who could really use the love of God today.  We have a tendency to put people in a box and label them based on our own flawed judgments.  It's easier to judge than to love, isn't it?

Jesus is the only one who actually has a right to judge...but He didn't.  He didn't come to judge the world.  He came to save the world from judgment, knowing that one day judgment would come.  He came to love and be loved.  But mostly, just to love.

He went to the places no one expected Him to go.  He dined with the outcasts, the "porn stars" and the sinners.  He spent time with the crooks and the thieves- in fact, he went to their homes, just to show them how much He loved them. 

He didn't love them for who they could be, he loved them for who they were.  The bible says that while we were STILL filthy in our sin, God sent His son for us...not after we changed, not while we were in the process of changing- but while we were still a mess (Romans 5:8).

Christian, when was the last time YOU went to dine at the house of a "sinner"?  Maybe a better question is, when was the last time you considered YOURSELF a sinner?  A sinner in need of Jesus' love.  A sinner in need of a Savior. 

We get so accustomed to grace that we forget where we came from...and that's a dangerous place to be.  I believe that true compassion comes only from the heart of one who who can recognize their own needs and short comings.  True compassion comes when we can say,

"Look....I've been there.  Jesus' love changed my life- now let it change yours". 

May we be inspired to live a life of compassion and love.  A life that reaches out to the least of these- because we realize that we were once lost.  A life that lives unashamedly with the purpose of touching the world around us with the love of Jesus.  A love that knows no limits.  A love that knows no bounds

And may you...have the grace to understand how much Jesus loves you.  No matter where you've been or what you've done.  If you've messed up - than you're the one He came for.  He wants to know you.  He wants to love on you.  He wants to dine with you.  May you have the strength to grasp His love.  A love that knows no limits.  A love that knows no bounds.

**For anyone stuck in the prison of pornography addiction- visit to break free and find hope. 

Saturday, April 16, 2011

How Pride Can Send you to Hell:

James 4:10
Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

It seems to me that the greatest obstacle in having a relationship with Jesus is that of pride.  Pride is, in a sense, the antithesis of grace. 

Grace proclaims that there is a need.
Pride denies the need exists.  

Grace asks for help.
Pride looks to help itself.

Grace requires relationship with others.
Pride requires nothing but self.

John Piper wrote an entire sermon based on the principle of pride, and how it got in the way of really getting to know Jesus.  According to Piper, pride is the common root for many who did not believe.  Pride cannot stand the idea of confessing there is a need...and acknowledging that help must come from the outside in. 

One author put it this way with regards to Jesus and the people surrounding him: "Those who didn't go to church loved him.  He met their needs.  Those who were in the church hated him.  He exposed their needs"

And that is the root with the problem of pride- it never likes to be exposed.  

Jesus came to do just that.  He came to expose our sins and our weaknesses.  He came to expose to us the very need inside of us that He came to fill.  The need for Himself.

It's no coincidence that as Jesus was giving His life on the cross he was placed between two men- one on His right, and one on His left.   Both with great need.  Both paying the debts of their sins.  Both would determine their eternal destinations by the last words spoken to the Messiah, dying in between them.

Pride questioned Him.  Pride hurled insults at Him.  Pride was afraid to see the needs, even while hanging on a cross, bleeding to death on account of his sinful state.

Humility asked for only one thing, "Remember me, Jesus..."

Remember me, Jesus.  Put me back together.  Save me from this mess I have made for myself. 

Humility is the only way in which we can be lifted up.  Humility is the only way to Jesus.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Dear Christian: My Love/Hate Relationship

Revisiting a post that got some serious thoughts from readers.  If you didn't get a chance to read it before, I would love to hear your thoughts.

Philippians 2:5
Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.

Dear Christian,

I have to be honest...I have mixed feelings about you.  A love/hate relationship if you will.  It's like looking at two sides of a coin, trying to figure out which one is really you.  Part of me wants you so bad...but the other side of me is too scared to jump in. 

There are days that you amaze me.  I look at you and see the most loving eyes, the most gentle hands, the most open heart.  I watch as you take care of your community, as you reach out to the poor and the needy, as you mend the hearts of the broken.

I am overcome by your ability to reach into my loneliness.  Reminding me that I'm not all by myself.  That someone really does care for and love me.  Somehow you always seem to know just what I's as though you had a direct line to God, or something.

I am challenged by the way you give up your time, your money...and your self for others.  I'm drawn to the fact that you are so humble, yet so confident.  You're honest about the fact that you don't always have it together...but that you're working on it.  I love that pushes me to be real with my self as well.

There is something about your smile that seems real to me.  It makes me wonder where you get such joy.  How you have such strength.  It makes me long for what you have. 

Sometimes I look at your faith, and the way you hold on with all of your heart...and wish I had something to give my all to.

But then I get stuck.  I get stuck because I see the other side to your who you are, and I find myself confused.  Because some days you amaze me, but other days you disappoint me.

Other days, it's as though something has come over you.  You aren't acting like yourself.  You are filled with pride and arrogance, acting like you really know it all and have it all together.  It makes me scared to come to you with my problems...because I'm afraid you won't understand.

It breaks my heart to watch you so caught up in the things of this, fame and fortune.  It's as though the American Dream has got you on a leash.  I thought you talked about bigger things?  I thought you said this world wasn't your home?  Then why do you seem so comfortable here?

Some days, it's as though you have an opinion about everything.  What I should wear, who I should be friends with, what I should eat and drink.  I feel judged by you, not loved.  I feel as though I am under a magnifying glass...and you're picking me apart, never satisfied to just let me be who I am.

I want to get closer to try and understand you...but your holier-than-thou attitude reminds me that I can't get too close.  Maybe I'm not good enough for you.  Maybe I'll never be.

Either way, I'm going to keep watching...waiting to see the real you.  There's a part of me that wants what you have...but a part of me that's still confused.  I'll be here.  Waiting for you to show me who you really are.  Until then, don't be surprised if I keep my distance.  I want to get closer, but I have to keep myself safe.

I hope you figure this out soon.  I hope you decide who you really want to be and stick to it.  When you do, come find me. 

Cautiously watching,

The World

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Why Worry Despises God:

Matthew 6:24-27

   24 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.
Do Not Worry
    25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life[e]?

I've read this passage on worry many times in my life.  Matthew 6 has become one of those "go-to" chapters for me when I feel that my emotions have gotten the best of me.  It's as though these verses have been medicine to my soul, reminding me that God is bigger than all of my problems, that He knows my needs, and that He will take care of me.

But this passage took on a more serious tone as I was reading it the other day.  I noticed something that I had always skimmed through before: the context.  

A rule of thumb when studying the bible in context is to always be aware of verses that start out with the word "Therefore".  The word therefore always signals that you need to take a deeper look into what you are reading.  It signals that this verse cannot be taken alone, but must be looked at in consideration with the verses that came before it.

I've always known this, but for the first time- the context of this passage helped me look at the meaning of worry in a whole new way.

Right before Jesus begins his talk about worry, He is reminding us of our tendency to have a fragmented heart.  He explains as followers of Jesus we can not be double-minded, loving God- but also loving something else, in this case- money.  

I don't necessarily consider myself an idolater.  I don't see myself as a person who serves two Gods.  Whenever I read those verses about worshiping God or worshiping money, I always supposed I was choosing God....undoubtedly so.  

Jesus boldly proclaims that you cannot serve both God and money.  He explains that if you serve will hate the other.   Those are some serious words.

But here's what got me.  Right after making this declaration He goes on to say:

Therefore, [aka with what I just said in mind] do not worry about your life.

Essentially, what Jesus is saying is that by worrying about our life- we have chosen to serve that master of money rather than God.  By worrying, we have allowed the idol of material things to take root in our hearts and become the very thing to which we are pledging our allegiance.  By worrying, we have in essence said that we are devoted to the things of this world...and not to our God.  

We need to take a serious look at the dangers of worry.  We need to begin to see it as the pedestal that allows the material to take the place of the supernatural.  The seed that allows the sin of idolatry to take root in our hearts.  The god that divides our hearts and minds and fools us into believing that this life here on earth is our final home.  

May we say no to the idol of worry

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Reverend Cable Guy:

John 13:35
By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

I'm in the process of reading a great book called "Jesus Loves You, This I Know" by Craig Gross and Jason Harper.  It's an awesome book written by two men with a heart for Jesus...and in turn, a heart for their worlds and the people in them.  I'm sure I'll be sharing the lessons I'm learning from this book throughout my reading...but one part in particular captured my heart.

Jason Harper is a Pastor with a heart for outreach.  One thing he is constantly teaching from the pulpit is the concept of reaching out to the world around you with the love of Jesus.

But after a challenge from a congregation member, Jason realized that so much of his "ministry" was inward.  Not outward.  He was surrounded by people who loved Jesus...surrounded by his church...surrounded by his "Christian bubble".  His message was easier said than done.

So with a heart of compassion and a determination to practice what he preached, Jason took a part time job as a Cable Collections guy with one purpose in mind: to make contact with the real world.

And he did.

I love this book because it is full of real stories of men and women forgotten by the world...and the average every day life of two pastors who cared enough to do something about them.

I love this book because it echoes the cry of my heart - to reach out to a lost and dying world with the love of Jesus.  It doesn't take a pastor, a counselor, or a ministry leader to be the hands and feet of Jesus...

It takes a cable guy.  A secretary.  A landscaper.  A farmer.  A carpenter.  It takes average everyday people who are willing to say YES to the calling of Jesus, asking us to be His follow Him.

During this season of Lent- Take a look at your sphere of influence.  Take a look at the lives you are touching everyday.  And ask yourself: Do you believe Jesus loves them?  Do you believe HE stepped out of His world in order to enter into theirs?  Do you believe that there is a brokenness that can only be healed by the knowledge of His love?

Live a life that answers YES. 

Friday, April 8, 2011

My Desires:

Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart. 

Desires.  We all have them. For many of us, our desires are a healthy and natural part of life.  We have our innate desires for food and drink.  We desire relationships and community.  We have desires for purpose and value.   

For many of us, though, our desires bring with them feelings of anguish and despair.  Desires of selfishness and pride.  Desires of lust and covetousness.  Desires of idolatry and isolation.  Desires that plague the heart and torment the mind. 

Knowing the power of desire, this verse was hard to understand.  It was hard to wrap my mind around the idea of God granting our desires, for to give us the desires of our heart would be a very dangerous thing.  It’s silly that I often question such things.  It’s almost as though sometimes I read the bible in expectation of a flaw, of a mistake, of something that just doesn’t add up.  And when I feel like I’ve found it, I read on...and God totally blows my expectation away.

You see, God’s granting of our desires is contingent upon one thing: delighting in Him.  That one thing is the foundation upon which everything else is laid.  For when God becomes our delight, our entire world begins to shift- with its dreams, its hopes, its plans and its desires.   

When God becomes our delight, our desires take on a whole new meaning.  When God becomes our delight, we find that our original desires somehow seem to slowly dim.  When God becomes our delight, a funny thing happens.  He somehow takes all of our desires, and draws them to Himself.  He becomes our desire. 

When God becomes our delight, we can rest easy- for the desires that used to haunt us, the desires that used to seek to destroy us, the desires that used to nag at our minds and tug at our hearts- they now belong to Him.  When God becomes our delight our desires become like a compass, leading us closer to Him.  When God becomes our delight, we can finally trust our heart’s desires, because He has placed them there.  They are His. 

May we, Christians, seek to delight in nothing other than our Lord.  May we allow Him to conform our hearts and our minds to His purpose.  May we allow Him to become the foundation upon which all of our desires are built.  May He then take away our human desires and place in us the desires of our hearts.  May His desires become our heart’s desires.  And may we then learn to trust our desires, allowing our desires to lead us into His will.  His good, pleasing, and perfect will.

Lord, you alone are worth delighting in.  Grant us the grace to delight in you today. 

Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Marriage is the Second Best Decision I Ever Made!"

Acts 4:20
For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.

I heard a speaker this morning who was speaking on the importance of keeping Jesus as the center of our lives every day- but particularly during this season of Lent. 

One way she does that is by sharing Jesus with the people she runs in to from day to day.  She shared that whenever she is out and about, if she happens to see a young lady wearing an engagement ring she asks:

"Are you getting married?"  If the woman replies yes, she then says to her, "Marriage is the second best decision I ever made!"

I can only imagine the kind of looks this kind of comment might get, but also, the kind of conversation starter that would be...and it got me excited at the prospect of this comment opening the door to good discussion. 

She continues by sharing that the first best decision she ever made- was entering a relationship with Jesus, and becoming a Christian.  As simple as this conversation starter is, it got me excited because frankly, when Jesus is the center of your life and you are truly in relationship with Him...conversation about Him is bound to happen. 

My husband and I were discussing this concept the other day.  The truth of the matter is, whatever is most important to you is that which overflows out of your heart and spills out of your mouth.  You can't help talk about it.  For some people it's sports.  For others- their children.  Hobbies, careers, friends...these are the things that tend to take over every conversation, every face book status update, and every passing comment.

Ask yourself this, what are the things that are overflowing onto your lips these days?  Are they the things that you WANT to reflect your heart?  Because if the answer is no....then something needs to change.  There is truth in he words of Jesus when he explains that out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.  Your conversation is merely a reflection of your heart. 

May we be challenged to examine our hearts during this season of Lent.  May we be encouraged to shift our priorities and our affections so that with each and every passing conversation we are pointing others to Him.  

*For more information on what it means to enter into a relationship with Jesus, read this article...and then send me a message, I would love to chat.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

For Sinners:

This man welcomes sinners and eats with them. 

There are so many things that could be said about God.  Descriptions of His power and might. Miraculous signs and wonders.  Mysterious and unsearchable things.  So many ways to describe His majesty and His glory.  To tell of His mercy and His grace.  To ponder His unfathomable ways.  There are so many ways to describe our God, but nothing compares to this.    

For in this description, we meet a God that is set apart from all other gods.  A God that has not allowed His majesty to hold Him back from our misery.  A God who sets aside His glory for a limitless pursuit of our hearts.  A God who not only welcomes sinners, he dines with them.  He invites them to his intimate table, seats them at his right hand, and takes care of all of their needs. 

We meet a God who gives His all to come find His lost sheep.  A God who will go anywhere and do anything, even to the point of death, to be able to bring us back home.  A God who reminds us that we are not the seekers for He came to seek us.  A God who is willing to break the status quo, reach out and humble Himself- in order to lift us up.

We meet a God who brings laughter where there have been tears, a God who brings his love where there has been hate.  We meet a God who sees sin as something to be forgiven and pain as something to be wiped away.  A God who finds it a joy to delight in us, when we finally respond to Him.  A God who gives the life of His son to remind us that we are His.  A God who finds company in us, in sinners.  Who welcomes us, sits with us, resides with us, and eats with us.   

A God who is for sinners, like you and like me. 

Thank you Lord that you put aside your majesty to save us from our misery.  Thank you that you did so to seek us out.  May we be moved during this season of Lent to open our hearts to you in response to such love. 

Monday, April 4, 2011

Hope was walking beside them:

 “…but we had hoped that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel”

With heads hanging low, tearful eyes looking towards the ground, they walked the dark road of despair.  Quietly discussing the events of the past few days, the deep feelings of confusion and disappointment combined in the depths of their souls.   

They had believed so strongly.  They had hoped so steadily.  They had waited all their lives for this.  They had invested everything in this One, this one who would save them.  And now He was gone.  The one who had promised to be their Way, their Truth and their Life.  He was now dead.  And their every dream died along side of Him.  There was nothing left to hope.

To many of us, the disappointment and despair of these women is a familiar and dull pain.  Many of us can understand the feelings of walking aimlessly, teary-eyed, with nothing left to hope.  Giving our all to believe, to hope, to dream.   Finding ourselves trusting in this One, and hoping that he will come through as he said he would; investing our hearts, our time, and our very lives.  And then the moments come where hope is destroyed.  Every dream is buried.  Every wish and expectation shattered.  There is nothing left to hope.

Death wins.  Rejection is familiar.  Disappointment echoes.  Fear Reigns. Depression sinks in. Worry abounds. Guilt destroys.  Anger grows.  Hopelessness encompasses.  Sorrow walks along side.  

And then we hear a familiar voice that challenges everything we thought and takes away all that we had feared:

“How foolish you are, how slow of heart to believe…
The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in His name…to all nations”

All along, Hope was walking beside them.  When they thought they were traveling alone. He had shattered their death and declared their acceptance; wiped away their tears as he Himself felt the agony of their pain.  He had gone to the depths of Hell, in order to offer them Heaven, and in the midst of their hopelessness, He came to embody their Hope once more.

Life is victorious.  Joy is familiar.  Acceptance echoes.  Confidence reigns.  Peace sinks in.  Love abounds.  Power grows.  Strength encompasses.  Hope walks along side.

Thank you, Lord, that you are our Hope. 

Friday, April 1, 2011

Pity The Fool:

[Thanks to Chris Fenstermaker for sharing this great reflection.]

Psalm 14:1
The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.

Here we are again.. It's April 1st. "April Fools Day" as so many call it.  And, the Christian blog-o-sphere, twit tweets, statuses and all the other outlets where we Christians are 'free' to voice our opinions do so with yet another mis-quoted, mis-cited, abused bit of scripture.

And there you have it, the Bible verse that says atheists are fools. Or, is this really who this verse refers to?

So often, this verse has been quoted as an attack on atheists. Too often, I believe.  And, in doing so - we have turned many hearts from the Grace of the Father and the very Heart of the Father is grieved.

And there-in lies the misconception. This passage isn't directed at non-believers....Let's look at it closer.

First, read Psalm 14 in its entirety.

Let's hope that none of us are this blind. In my experience it is possible that Christians can be what The Psalmist describes here as the fool.

How could that happen? Fool here is the word nabal. Remember the story of David and Abigail (1 Samuel 25)? Abigail's husband was named Nabal, and was called foolish. It means someone who is contemptible, someone who is empty, someone who cares for nothing other than himself.

It does not mean "an atheist" or one who has no contact with God. It does not even mean that such a person does not see God in His creation. The fool that David is talking about here in Psalm 14 may even admit that God is Creator and even claim that this belief has a major impact in his life.

This person, this "fool," though not an atheist, lives as if he believes no God exists. A nabal is not stupid; he is not a person who does not reason. He is a person who reasons incorrectly. A nabal is a person who chooses or assumes to ignore God's authority over his life. He views God as an "absentee landlord" who may be disregarded because he assumes that God is not really active.

So - here, this verse - Psalm 14:1 is not speaking of "atheists" - but really speaking to the 'Christian' who does not live reflective of what he believes....which places a better understanding of the latter parts of the verse.

Let's rephrase the verse (using the CFT*)

The Christian who lives contrary to what He says he believes is foolish (nabal). His works and deeds are corruptible and abhorrent in God's sight, without purpose, reward, or eternal value.

So in response;  Are YOU, Mr or Mrs Christian, a fool?  Are you one who says that you believe and trust in God, but your life or actions don't reflect that very statement?  I'm not talking about 'to sin or not to sin'....I am talking about living a life that is markedly different because God is present in and through your life...ever present.

How then should we live?  Possibly as Paul suggests in Ephesians, to be very careful how you live...making the most of every opportunity...understand what the Lord's will is. But even more so - live as though we believe that God will do what He has said He will do.

(*CFT - Chris Fenstermaker Translation - unorthodox and unauthorized)

Revised from the original post on October 22, 2009 at Thinking In Reality.