Thursday, January 26, 2012

Now, Do You Really Want Power?

1 Kings 17:1
Now Elijah the Tishbite, from Tishbe[a] in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.” 

Been reading a little bit through the book of Kings, specifically looking at the life of Elijah the prophet. 

For someone like me who has been raised hearing and studying about these historical biblical figures, it's easy to idolize their lives and their legacy.  It's easy to look at their power with wonder, awe and amazement, wishing that we had even a fraction of the faith that they had and their ability to live a life miracles. 

Elijah and God were so in tune with each other.  From predicting droughts, to calling down fire, Elijah had the incredible ability to perform miracles in a way that made the world around him stop and give glory to the God he served. 

And so we read about these incredible prophets throughout history, and we're inspired to live a life that really matters, a life that makes those around us stand in amazement and throw their hands up glorifying the God that we serve.  And we're so inspired that maybe we'll even pray for that kind of power...but, it never comes.  

No calling down fires.  No predicting the future.  No miraculous signs and wonders.  

Power never comes, because we are ultimately looking for the power without the pain.  We want to live in our safe Christian bubbles, we want everyone to like us, and we want blessing after blessing after blessing.  You see, safety is the greatest obstacle in receiving power.

Francis Chan illustrates this point in a video about taking risks...but at the end of the day, who of us really wants to take risks?

If we're honest with ourselves, it's so much easier to live a powerless life...and be loved, secure, safe, and happy.  To ask for the kind of power we see displayed in Scripture would be to ask for a lot more than power.  Faith, uncertainty, trust...and even pain.

I look at every effective prophet in Scripture and one thing I see they all have in common is their willingness to do whatever it took to bring the power of God into the world around us.  They endured the seeds of suffering, hardships, broken hearts, endless waiting, scorn, hatred, and shame to harvest the crop of power. 

So, let me ask you again, do you really want that kind of power in your life?  

May God give us the strength to trust Him enough in order to walk outside of our safe places, so that we too can bring even a fraction of His loving power to this broken and dying world.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Most of the Things You Worry About Never Happen...But if They Do:

Acts 7:54-60
54 When the members of the Sanhedrin heard this, they were furious and gnashed their teeth at him. 55 But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”
 57 At this they covered their ears and, yelling at the top of their voices, they all rushed at him, 58 dragged him out of the city and began to stone him. Meanwhile, the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul.
 59 While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he fell on his knees and cried out, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he fell asleep. 

What are your greatest fears?  

What are the things that keep you up at night...just worrying?  Worry: the act of thinking negatively about things (that might I add...may never happen...). 

If you're anything like me, it's easy to let your brain get carried away and your mind wander.  All of the things that could happen, that might happen, that should happen.  What if they do?  What would I do?  How would I survive?

And so we busy ourselves with the worries of our world...

This passage in Acts was a so refreshing for me to read and discuss yesterday in our bible study small group.  I know it's usually focused on the martyrdom of a man, who gave it all for Jesus...but for me, I saw it in a totally different light.

I saw a man who faced one of the greatest fears ever known to man...the fear of death.  A man who may have had a wife and children, family and friends...who suddenly found himself facing the painful sting of death...reaching the moment where life as he knew it would come to an end.

Sometimes I fear death.  It's all around us.  Grandparents dying of old age...parents becoming ill...tragedies of wives, husbands, and children...sometimes it makes me fear death too.

But more than that...I fear other things.  Smaller than death.  Illness...loneliness...depression.  Pain...betrayal...conflict.  The list goes on and on. There are so many things to fear if we are looking for them.  One reason I love this passage so much is because to me, it's a model of how we should face our greatest fears.

It's the story of a man who had to face his greatest fears...and the story of a God who wouldn't let him face those fears alone.

It's a story of the man who did not have the strength to look death in the eye...and the story of a God who became His strength.

You see, in the worst moment of this man's life- God showed up.  At the most horrific second...Jesus was right there.  He blinded Stephen's vision from the terrors of this world until all that he could see was the glory of God. In the worst moment...He became his vision.  He became all that he could see.

I am filled with hope as I walk through this life that God will give me what I need...when I need it.  Sometimes I allow myself to worry, and think "I don't have the strength..." rather, I should be thankful that I don't have the strength...because I don't need it!

You see, God doesn't give you the strength to face your fears...until the moment you have to face them. He doesn't give you the ability to handle your worries...but He gives you the wisdom to hand your worries to Him.  

"Even though I walk through the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me..."

Be assured, as you look ahead at the fires of life...and know that as you walk through the will never be alone.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Isolated Christian:

Hebrews 10:25
Not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. 

The irony of this generation is that we are some of the most "socially connected" people, yet more than ever we are battling the grave of isolation.  Just the other day someone was sharing with me the paradox that the more she browses Facebook, the more isolated and alone she actually feels because it seems as though the world around her is all connecting...without her.   

We are longing for relationships.  For true, genuine, heart to heart connections with others.  It's one of the desires of my heart as well.  I was telling my husband that just the other day.  We're in a season of life where family is a priority with raising a toddler and with a baby on the way.  It seems as though our longing for community has kind of taken a back seat, and we're feeling the effects of that.  Isolation is a relentless monster, willing to pounce the moment he gets a chance.  And lately, he's been pouncing.

I've noticed, though, that there are three kinds of people when it comes to techniques in facing the trap of isolation.  Some compare, some complain...and then there are those who actually take the time to connect. 

The Comparing One:  It's easy to compare, isn't it?  And now with social networking as incredible as it is, it's WAY easy to compare.  Photos, events, parties, get-togethers, status updates...with one click of a button you can be lining yourself up against every friend in your queue.  Comparing makes the world around you seemingly incredible...while the world you live in becomes smaller, and darker, and lamer.  Comparing takes your eyes off of what you want, and puts them on what others have.  And it's a pit that is sure to leave you feeling more and more alone with every passing thought.   

The Complaining One:  We can all think of someone who fits in this category, and like Michael Jr. says, if you can't...then maybe they're thinking of you!  People who whine and complain about how they are miserable and alone, how no one wants to hang out with them, thinks of them, or includes them in anything.  They are the passive ones, who live their life to react to what others do...and most of the time, that reacting is in negative form.   Complainers don't get very far in connecting, because by the very nature of complaining- it pushes people away. 

The Connecting One:  Rather than being reactive to the world around them, Connecters are proactive.  When it comes to fellowship and community, they play offense not just defense.  They don't wait for the desert of isolation to become the norm, because the moment they feel it, they are picking up the phone to call a friend.  Connecters are the people who seem to get 1,000 text messages a day (unbeknownst to us, they've sent 5,000 text that day).  They're the ones who have people over, plan dinner dates, call a friend for coffee, or join the church softball team just to stay connected.  They practice hospitality, and don't wait to be invited before they take the opportunity to invite.  They ask questions, make others feel important, and serve with all of their hearts.

I know some connectors, and I'm inspired by them, because at the end of the day, I really believe it's the life God calls us to live.  Jesus was a connecter, taking the time to really give to those around Him without waiting around for them to give to Him.  And the miraculous thing about people like that is when you refresh others in that find yourself supernaturally refreshed. 

I want to be proactive this year, rather than simply reactive.  I don't wait to wait around for someone to notice me, to love me, and to connect to me.  I want to be the one who shakes hands with people at church, invites a new couple over for lunch to get to know them, has a neighborhood get together, calls a friend just to see how they are doing.  I want to be a person who is connecting with others and loving others the way Jesus loves me.  I don't want the trap of isolation to take over and lead me into believing the lie that I am all alone...because in all honesty, lonesomeness is the fastest road to sinfulness, whether it be through my mind or in my heart. 

I want this year to be a defining year for me when it comes to battling isolation.  It's time to make some real connections, it's time to squelch the disease of isolation.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Marbles in Glass Jars: Living a Life that Counts in 2012

Philippians 3:8
What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ.

Come over to our house and you will find something new tucked away in the back corner of our bookshelf, behind the picture frame and above the books.  There sits a clear glass jar, and a bag of red marbles in a bag right beside. 

This year we decided to do something tangible as a reminder of what it is that we are really living for day in and day out.  

The past few years I would have to say that our jobs have been considerably demanding.  I- a counselor part time and a stay at home mom, he- a resident working and studying many hours.  On top of this balancing a marriage, maintaining a home (cooking, cleaning, groceries, laundry...) the task of 24/7 parenting, spending time with family, leisure activities, and making sure we also have a social life.  I'm sure you can relate, life can get really busy.  And the busyness can easily take center stage.

I love this passage in Philippians because it's a genuine reminder from a man who accomplished so much in this world- that none of that accomplishment actually light of knowing Jesus and making Him known. 

Sometimes our worldly tasks become our sole focus- rather than what they were meant to be- only a means to an end.  For us as believers- that end is nothing less than loving God and sharing his love with the world around us.  Everything else we do on this earth is just the avenue by which we get there.  It's just the journey, not the final destination. 

I think sometimes we get too comfortable with this world and our roles in it...not realizing that one day, all of these things will fade away, and only one thing will remain.  

So back to our glass jar.  This jar, for us, is a representation of the things that really matter in this world.  It's a reminder of what we were made to do.  Every time one of us shares the love of Jesus with someone in our lives, we place a marble in that jar as a reminder to continue living this life to store up our treasures in Heaven (and stop worrying so much about our 401K). 

I want 2012 to be a year in which I look back and say that God used me for great things: even if those great things mean smiling at a homeless man, serving at a women's shelter, or praying with a struggling neighbor.  I want to redefine my definition of "greatness" this year, so that it is no longer in line with the things of this world and completely in line with heavenly things.  Great things are in store.  Will you join me?