Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shattering My Christian Bubble:

Acts 10:15
The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

The book of Acts presents an ongoing tension between the Jews and the Gentiles.  For God's chosen people (The Jews), it was hard to believe that God would love their surrounding communities- enemies and all- as much as He loved them.  For the ancient Jewish people, from the moment they were born they were taught that everyone else was "unclean".  It was hard for them to believe that God carried the same affection for others that he did for them.  But He did...and He wanted to use the Jews as agents of that love to the world around them. 

I know we are out of the era of Jew/Gentile.  In fact, we see men and women of all races, colors and cultures in the body of believers. That's the norm.

But I was convicted of another category of tension that I struggle with as I read this passage.  The tension between Christian- and "NonChristian".  

For many Christians, they find themselves completely separated and disattached from the world around them.  In the Christian college I attended, we called this the phenomena of the "Christian Bubble".  You work, study, eat, and live and fellowship among Christians.  There is little exposure to the world around us...the real world that we live in.

In fact, some Christians even adopt the faulty mentality that to be around "NonChristians" is in a way "impure". 

To say that mentality is problematic would be an understatement.  God cringes at the hypocrisy in that sort of a lifestyle.  Christians can have a tendency to claim that they want to reach the broken...but ironically, they don't have relationships with anyone who would consider themselves broken, lost, or in need.

"God calls us to be in this world but not of it", is a statement I hear all the time, justifying the separation of Christians from the rest of the world.  Not wanting to expose themselves to "bad language, alcoholic beverages, and secular music" Christians tend to take on the role of a hermit, hiding from anything potentially troublesome.  But frankly, some Christian communities are becoming so inclusive that they might as well not even be IN this world, much less of it. 

I definitely don't want to be that kind of a Christian.  I don't want to be the kind of Christian that cringes at the thought of getting my hands- or my heart- a little dirty.  I want to be a Christian that followed in the footsteps of Jesus, reaching out in relationships to people past my worldview, past my belief system, and past my comfort zone. 

In Peter's dream, God shattered his perspective on what it meant to love past his boundaries...and He is doing the same for me.  I hope the same for you. 

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Waiting Place:

Psalm 39:7
And now, Lord, for what do I wait?  My hope is in You.

I was reading a Dr. Seuss book to my daughter last night called, Oh the Places You Will GoIt's interesting the things God chooses to speak to us.  For me, it was this children's story.

I came across this section where, in his brilliance, Dr. Seuss describes "The Waiting Place".  Across the journey of life, and all the places one can choose to go- there is a useless place where people just sit around....and wait:

You can get so confused that you’ll start in to race down long wiggled roads at a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place.

The Waiting Place…for people just waiting.

Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting.

Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting.

No! That’s not for you!

Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. With banner flip-flapping, once more you’ll ride high! Ready for anything under the sky. Ready because you’re that kind of a guy!

I love his description of the waiting place.  There is so much truth to the idea that waiting can be a useless waste of time.  People just sitting around and waiting.  Waiting for something to happen.  Looking ahead at the future and what's to come.  Waiting, hoping, and wishing...

And while they sit around and passes them by. 

You might feel like one of those people, stuck in the waiting place.  There may be something you have been longing for, something you have asked God for...that has never been fulfilled.  You may be so fixated on what it is that you are waiting on, that you have lost your desire for what IS. 

Jim Elliot puts it this way when he says, "Don't let your longing slay the appetite of your living". 

For many of us, our longings can squelch our desire for living.  Our longings can overtake our reason for being.  The waiting game turns out to be a very dangerous thing.

But for those who put their hope in the Lord, the waiting game doesn't have to be a waste of time.  God promises that He can be trusted, no matter what it is that you are waiting on.  He promises to be the hope for anyone who finds themselves waiting.  At the end of our longings and desires, He is there...ready to satisfy and meet everyone of them with Himself.

May God give you the grace to see the Hope that you have in Him...and may He give you the desire and strength to enjoy your life, while you wait.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

May 21st, 2011: But my world ended years ago...

Romans 2:4
God's kindness leads you toward repentance.
May 21, 2011.  I'm still here, how about you?  Harold Camping's end of the world prophecy seems to have failed, yet again.

I don't know about Harold Camping- but I'm grateful that I serve a God who doesn't need to use scare tactics to reach the signs, no prophecies, no magic tricks. 

He uses something far more powerful: He uses kindness.  He uses love. 

His love has won me over.  His love has essentially ended my world years ago when I experienced it.  It changed my perspectives, my priorities, and the very things I was living for.  It ushered me into deeper life and greater hope.  It changed my life and rocked my world. 

His love ushered me into new life...And I hope it does the same for you. 

Happy End of the World Day.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Addicted to Stuff: Isolated from God

Hebrews 13:12-14
12 And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his own blood. 13 Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. 14 For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. 

There are some people that are not distinguished by their intelligence, their compassion, or their appearance...they are distinguished by the anointing of God on their lives.  The Holy Spirit pours out of their body through every action and every word.  John Piper is one of those men.

This morning my husband and I were listening to one of his sermons (click here to listen- you won't regret it!!!).  It rocked our his sermons seem to always do.  He is a man that is so in tune with God, evidenced not only by the words he says, but the way he lives his life.  But I'm not here to talk about my crush on Piper.  I'm here to share a bit about how his sermon touched my life and changed my heart.

This verse in Hebrews was the foundational passage on which his talk was founded.  A passage describing Jesus as a man who went "outside the gate".  Out of His safe place and into risk and order that we might be saved.  It is a passage that calls us, as believers, to do the same.  It is a passage that begs us to live a life of:

"risk-taking flavor. A gutsy, counter-cultural, war-time flavor to it that makes the average prosperous Americans in your church feel uncomfortable. A strange mixture of tenderness and toughness that keeps worldly people a little off balance. A pervasive summons to something more and something hazardous and something wonderful. A saltiness and brightness, something like the life of Jesus."

A life that considers that lives as though it has nothing to lose....because it considers it's life on this earth as nothing, looking toward the "city that is to come".  A life that, as Piper puts it, "treasures Christ above the accumulation of stuff."

There is so much more to this sermon, but this is where I want to camp out.  In the land of the Rich Young Man.  A man who was so bogged down by STUFF, that he could not fully enter into the life of Christ.  Essentially, it was his stuff that led him to his death.

We can't go far in our relationship with God without taking the time to recognize our addiction to stuff, to things, to material gain.  It's a snare that we are all stuck in, if we are truly honest with ourselves.  I, for one, am no different.

This sermon called me back to a very basic place...a place that I had every so slowly wandered from, without even realizing it.  It called me back to the place that declares everything garbage compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Jesus. 

I don't know how I got here.  Without even realizing it.  I find myself at a place that gets excited more about the material than about the spiritual.  Surrounded by things, and surrounded by people who do the same.  Something has gone terribly wrong. 

Piper explains that the accumulation of health and wealth will NEVER be what draws the world to Jesus.  You see, this is what they seek as well...if Christ is the so called "ticket" to prosperity, well, they can find another way.  You don't need JESUS to have money and things....anyone in the West can get to those things without Him.

True life comes not with the accumulation of treasure, it comes in the changing perspective of what your treasure really is.  For me, that treasure is Jesus.

A treasure that has changed my life in more ways than I could ever begin to explain.  A treasure that has saved me from despair, discouragement and death.  A treasure that begins here in this world, and leads me into another...a treasure that will never end.

Thank you, John Piper, for the reminder of what it means to really follow Christ. 


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Darkness Inside:

Psalm 51:10
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

"To defeat the darkness out there, you must defeat the darkness inside yourself."-- Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

It's easy to focus on the darkness "out there".  I mean, there's so much of it.  Turn on any news station, pick up any magazine or newspaper, or surf the web at any given moment and you'll be bombarded by a flood of never-ending darkness.  Crimes, death, natural disaster, scandal, poverty.  It's all around us.  

It's easy to find our hearts united in a desire for justice.  A desire to rid the world of all it's filth.  To pick it up, dust it off, and make it all better.  

My heart resonates with that longing.  It's a real part of me.  I long to shine a light in this darkness.  And I am pursuing that. 

But for the first time in my life, God has been challenging me to take a good hard look at the darkness inside.

You see, in defeating the darkness inside is the first step to having victory over the darkness out there.  There is some serious truth in that statement.  God longs for us to take a look at ourselves as the first component to the problems around us.  

Want peace on earth?  Work on the relationships in your life that are in need of peace.
Want to tackle greed in corporate America?  Take a look in the materialism in your own home.
Want to overcome global poverty?  Take accountability of your own selfishness.
Want to get rid of the pornography industry?  Ask God to cleanse you of your own lusts. 
Want to do away with abortion?  See how God is calling you to care for the children around you.
Want to put an end to gay marriage?  Maybe it's time to learn the reality of unconditional love.

It's so easy to look at the darkness out there, but so difficult to look at the darkness within.  

I'm grateful for a loving God who doesn't rub my shortcomings in my face, but instead, He rubs them out.  

Lord, help me to search my heart and tackle the darkness from within.  
Create in me a clean heart and a right spirit.  

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Eavesdropping Waitress:

Colossians 4:5-6
5 Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. 6 Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone. 

A few days ago a few of us were out to dinner.  I was talking to a friend about his Myers-Briggs personality score, and explaining to him some of the details involved in his personality type. 

Our waitress had been coming in and out, refilling our drinks, taking our orders, bringing our meals as waitresses often do.  When out of no where in the middle of our conversation she says,

"Sorry to interrupt, but do you mind if I jump in this conversation?  I know exactly what you're talking about and...."

And she began adding her two cents to our conversation. 

I'll be honest, it threw us all of a bit.  Less because she interrupted, and more because we were all shocked that she had actually been listening to our conversation so intently.  In all honesty, the place was packed, and the entire evening she seemed to be distracted between the many duties she had to tackle that evening.

But more than anything, it opened my eyes to the reality that PEOPLE ARE LISTENING.  

They really are!  Even when you don't realize it.  

It's a challenging and somewhat scary thought.  The reality is that this young ladies life had direct contact with mine for this one evening.  What had I allowed to come out of my mouth that day?  What else had she heard?  Had I spoken words that would build her up and show her Jesus?

Think about it.  How many things enter our minds and exit our mouths throughout the day?  How many times are we out with friends or talking on the phone in public surrounded by listening ears.  It makes you really take account of what you are allowing to come out of your mouth. 

The bible challenges us to even view our conversation as a tool to glorify God.  Even in what we say we are asked to be salt and light to the world around us.   For some of us...our conversation is nothing to take pride in.

Take inventory.  Have you spoken poorly about someone in your life?  Have you complained to another?  Have you allowed inappropriate conversation to make it's way into your social life?  Are your words negative?  Are your words meaningless?  Or are your worlds full of grace, and seasoned with salt...making the most of every opportunity. Even opportunities that go unnoticed. 

What's your conversation saying to the world around you?