Friday, March 31, 2006

The visually-impaired Christian.

I can't even walk
Without You holding my hand.
The mountain's too high,
And the valley's too wide.
Down on my knees
I learned to stand
Because I can't even walk,
Without You holding my hand.

Have you heard that song before? Do you believe it? Do you really think you can't make it without God?
It seems like we rely so much on what we've determined to be our own strength. Our own abilities. If we make it through a situation where there doesn't seem to be a massive spiritual breakthrough we really just assume we've done this on our own.

Feel free to take what I'm about to say with a grain of salt, because I haven't quite formulated the entire concept in my mind yet. But :)
If you're walking "on your own" minus the amazing power of God, 1) You're not really walking on your own, He's always there, and it's always His strength we use to make it through every situation, because all things were made by him including you and your mind and your talents. And 2) In comparison to what you could be doing, you're only crawling - not walking.
In the power of God there is strength and purpose, and a clarity that brings new ideas and awareness to you. When you walk without that, it's like walking through a dark hallway. You may stumble and fall, stub your toe or you might just make it to your destination by feeling blindly at the walls. Let me tell you this: There was a much easier way
Just this week I was convicted about how unkind I am. My actions are often kind, but out of the abundance of my heart so my mouth speaks. And I've realized how often I criticize just random people walking by my office, people coming in the office, virtually any random person unfortunate enough to be in my path that I can find fault with (which is almost anyone!).
James says 1:26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
James 3:4 Behold also the ships, which though they be so great, and are driven of fierce winds, yet are they turned about with a very small helm, whithersoever the governor listeth.
5Even so the tongue is a little member, and boasteth great things. Behold, how great a matter a little fire kindleth!
6And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity: so is the tongue among our members, that it defileth the whole body, and setteth on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire of hell.
7For every kind of beasts, and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed, and hath been tamed of mankind:
8But the tongue can no man tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9Therewith bless we God, even the Father; and therewith curse we men, which are made after the similitude of God.
10Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be.
11Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
12Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.
13Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

I've said all that just to say...just because you think you're getting through something, or that you're doing well, doesn't mean that that is the way that God sees you.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Why am I here?

1 Kings 19:1 Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. 2 So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, "May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them."
3 Elijah was afraid [
a] and ran for his life. When he came to Beersheba in Judah, he left his servant there, 4 while he himself went a day's journey into the desert. He came to a broom tree, sat down under it and prayed that he might die. "I have had enough, LORD," he said. "Take my life; I am no better than my ancestors." 5 Then he lay down under the tree and fell asleep. All at once an angel touched him and said, "Get up and eat." 6 He looked around, and there by his head was a cake of bread baked over hot coals, and a jar of water. He ate and drank and then lay down again.
7 The angel of the LORD came back a second time and touched him and said, "Get up and eat, for the journey is too much for you." 8 So he got up and ate and drank. Strengthened by that food, he traveled forty days and forty nights until he reached Horeb, the mountain of God. 9 There he went into a cave and spent the night.
The LORD Appears to Elijah
And the word of the LORD came to him: "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
10 He replied, "I have been very zealous for the LORD God Almighty. The Israelites have rejected your covenant, broken down your altars, and put your prophets to death with the sword. I am the only one left, and now they are trying to kill me too."
11 The LORD said, "Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by." Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. 12 After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 13 When Elijah heard it, he pulled his cloak over his face and went out and stood at the mouth of the cave. Then a voice said to him, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"

I'm not gifted to preach, but I did want to share my thoughts on something a preacher did preach. The scriptures above were our main scriptures that we read last night, and they're definitely interesting. But the thing that the pastor lightly touched on was the thing that affected me the most. After all that had happened, God asks Elijah "What are you doing here?" Elijah answers the same way the second time that he answered the first time. It just made me think, how often I get focused on the wind and the storms or the fire and the power that is around me that I wouldn't be able to give a GOOD reason as to why I'm here? When I get into God's presence, if He asked me "What are you doing here?" What would my answer be?
What would your answer be?
Ok, now let's go about our daily lives. You go to work - What are you doing there? You go to the store - What are you doing there? You go to your leadership meeting at church - What are you doing there? Our purpose on earth is the same no matter what situation we go into. It doesn't change because the thing we're doing doesn't 'seem' to have any spiritual value.
So let me ask you this - You're on my blog, seriously, what are you doing here?

Proverbs 3:6 6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Right vs. Outcome - Who wins?

While reading a book I came across a debate concerning the difference between Utilitarian beliefs and the beliefs of a Christian. It was interesting and I'd highly recommend the book. It made me think, and so I looked up information on Utilitarian beliefs.

The principle of utility states that an action is "right if it produces as much or more of an increase in happiness of all affected by it than any alternative action, and wrong if it does not"

The interesting part to me was how it was put up against Christianity. With Christianity, there are standards of right and wrong. Some things are 'right' even though the outcome might not be pleasant or bring happiness, but it's still 'right'. That would mean we have a simple guideline to follow, here is right - do it. Whether you like it or not, whether people like you for it or not, here is right - do it. That was what Christ did when He walked the earth, and that is what God expects of us.

So it makes me wonder if deep down, as much as we try and avoid unhappiness if we aren't more utilitarian than we'd like to believe. We want people to be happy, we want them to like us and we base our decisions largely on what will happen if we do xyz. How many times have you known the right thing to do and simply did it not really not thinking of the consequences but not caring about the consequences?

In my recent struggle the thing that kept me from doing the right thing was the consequences of the actions. Right and wrong were cast aside as I discovered my utilitarian roots and decided to go with what would make the most people happy.

I know this never seems to apply to you, so no one will probably think this is food for them. But I'm hoping, the next time you find yourself in a serious struggle and you don't know what to do... I hope you'll remember this post and ask yourself if you're willing to do what is right regardless of the outcome.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

I'm not dead - But I should be.

Do you remember the end of the movie Schindler's List? The guy has bought all these Jews and suddenly realizes how many more he might of bought. He begins saying things like his pen could of bought 1 more life, his car could of bought 10 more lives... despite all he had done, he's still filled with regret.

I was thinking last night about living for myself, rather than Christ. About how most of my daily actions are for me and for my comfort, rather than promoting the cause of Christ. And mainly, I was convicted where I'm usually convicted... my money.
I don't have a lot of it. Technically I have minus numbers of dollars because I'm in debt. But still I feel convicted about how I spend my money. What if my money could be used to help a homeless person improve their health, giving them one more day in which someone might come along and preach the gospel to them and they be saved? What if I signed up for one of those sponsor a child programs and gave a couple of children food and shelter and medicine so they might live long enough for the missionaries that are possibly coming to their country in 5 years will be able to witness to that particular child and have him come to Christ?
If I am living unto Christ - and NOT unto myself - why am I spending so much money on myself? Paul states "I die daily". Do we? I mean do we really? If I'm dead, and it's Christ that lives through me, did Christ really want me to spend $19.47 on a blockbuster rental? Did He really want me to spend $40 bucks of His money on Readers Digest? If I'm dead, why am I spending so much money on me?
Are you dead?
We're so focused on comfort, and pleasure, and entertainment, that I don't think we even realize we're suppose to be dead. When we got up this morning, we were suppose to die to ourselves, and become living representatives of Christ alone. What would Christ buy with His income tax refund? What would Christ tithe if He earned what I earn? Would Christ spend 15 bucks on the chicken dinner at Chili's?
I remember lecturing my niece and nephew awhile back about how if they are always asking for things, a person can never give them something just out of kindness. Granted, it's nice to give kids what they're asking for, but don't you want to surprise them with something you know they'll like every now and then?
How hard must it be for God to bless us, when we're so very busy blessing ourselves!
This is my conviction, this is what God has time after time after time impressed on me, and I'm not sure what to do about it. Not sure either what I'm willing to do about it.
Am I willing to die?
Are you?

Monday, March 27, 2006

What a friend we have in Jesus

I've recently been struggling with a situation. In my church, there was a man that was making me uncomfortable because I felt he was being very inappropriate with me. Raised in a strict household that did not allow you to tell a fellow church member that they were wrong, I stubbornly refused to think for myself. I didn't want to go to church anymore, despite the fact that I was absolutely craving spiritual food and fellowship. I love my church, but I couldn't stand to be there any more.
So I left.
I sent my pastor a letter explaining that I was horribly over-reacting to what was probably nothing, but that I was uncomfortable and didn't want to be there any more.
My pastor is a good man, and a very loving but firm leader I'm learning. He called a week later and asked me to let him deal with the situation, and to just hold on until I heard from him again.
I won't tell you how everything has ended up just yet, as a lot of things are still up in the air. But I just wanted to share this story with whoever reads this, because I learned a valuable lesson.
Sometime Sunday night, at a different church, I heard a sermon on peace and unity. And it's hard for me to describe why, but that is what finally broke through the chaos, and confusion in my mind. I was deathly afraid to approach this man and say STOP, because if it offended him or his wife, they might get mad and they'd been at the church longer than me and yadda yadda yadda blah blah blah.
Breaking through that chaos was wonderful, but it made me somber and very ashamed of the way I handled things. The situation was mine to handle, not my pastors. But unfortunately, I was too caught up in my emotions and my past and how other people had told me to handle the situation... all my advisers told me things to do but then said "It's up to you". While that was kind of them, and I know what they meant, I wish now someone had had the sense to say that it wasn't up to me, it was up to God. The bible instructs me on what to do if you feel there is a brother in error, and that's exactly what happened. I was just too busy running scared to think of it.
There's a lot more to the story, maybe just my telling you the story without all the extra facts attached to it will hurt my credibility with you, I don't know. I half expected my pastor to be angry with even the insinuation that someone in the church would be inappropriate. But, the reason I wanted to share this... there are a thousand and one reasons as to why you should feel confused, and scared, and worried about the out come of things. Even more reasons to run away and hide somewhere when life gets tough. But, in those moments, try try try to remember that God is in control. That He's not the author of confusion, and that He's promised PEACE to His believers. Turn to Him and just tell Him your fears. Praying is a simple conversation with your Father. Tell Him your worries and your cares, He's listening and He knows how to handle this - whatever your 'this' may be.

Are we weak and heavy laden,
Cumbered with a load of care?
Precious Saviour, still our refuge;
Take it to the Lord in prayer:
Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?
Take it to the Lord in prayer;
In His arms He'll take and shield thee;
Thou wilt find a solace there.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Dorothy Sayers

In the world it is called tolerance but in hell it is called despair. The
sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, enjoys
nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing but remains alive because
there is nothing which it would die for.

Surrendering your ... um...

In a book I was reading last night, part of this one persons narrative jumped out at me. She said Obedience is the giving up of ourselves. It means taking our hands off our own selves and letting other hands remake us. Sometimes it means standing by and not doing what we would choose to do because we know that there's a love and goodness doing it's own work in us. Obedience is surrender - surrender to God, and surrender to the authority of those He puts over your care.
Then a short chapter later...
At some point in the Christian life, we begin to see what it might cost us. And in spite of it all, we go on. Because what is in us is not of man, but of God... But first there had to be the laying-down -- that place where we are carried where we would not go.

That leaves me wondering, have I ever really and truly reached that point where I was forced to lay down everything of myself and leave it in His hands? Have you? No matter how much we discuss surrendering to God's will, and no matter how many times we sing I surrender all, it's all pointless words unless we are actually willing to do it.
Are you willing to lay everything down and put it in God's hands? Your family, your children, your job, your health, your finances, your church, your vacations, your free time, your self-esteem?
I can easily tell you, anything you give up for Christ is 100% worth it. But nothing worth anything has ever come easily or cheaply. But as time goes on, I realize that a lot in my life has been easy, and cheap. And that's not what I want to leave behind me when I die. I intensely want to scorn the cheap and easy, to throw it in the garbage where it belongs and trade my life's time and work for something of value.
What do you want?

Thursday, March 23, 2006

What denomination are you?

I attended a church last night that for some reason didn't want to actually state they were Church of Christ. Their sign outside proclaims them to be Church of Christ, but it was dark when I drove up so I didn't see that. I remain clueless until the singing started and there were no instruments played. That's when I began inspecting their platform and noticed there were no instruments TO be played. Finally at the end of the service I asked them "Y'all are church of Christ aren't you?" The answer they gave me was a resounding "sort of" and "not really". They also tried to convince me that the only 'rule' they had in their church was that you couldn't condemn anyone. I suppose they might of said that because I was dressed up in a skirt and at least two of their women were wearing sweatsuit. Perhaps they felt I would be a little hard on them.
But, I've strayed from my point. What is so wrong with asking people what denomination they are? If you're familiar with different religions then instantly upon hearing the answer you have a good idea of what they believe. Why has it become so popular to simply respond "Christian" or something to that question? If I'm asking, obviously I'm asking because I want to know what you believe. So, what's wrong with telling people what you believe?
I'm Pentecostal
I believe, as a Christian, I will be going through the tribulation. I won't be raptured out before-hand.
I believe you CAN walk away from your salvation
I believe in being filled with the Holy Ghost with the evidence of speaking in tongues
I believe in the trinity - God is God, Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is God. They are three in one, and one God.
I believe the bible is clear *especially in Revelation* that instruments are used during singing.
I believe in baptism by immersion. And actually like the over-used phrase "Put 'em under till they bubble"
And last but not least
I believe, if you believe something you should know why you believe it. And you shouldn't be afraid to proclaim it. The most important thing to believe is that Christ died for your sins, and that through Him and His sacrifice you can receive salvation. Everything else seems to be secondary details. I don't want you to be ignorant about them, but neither do I think that if someone believes differently than you that they will go to hell.
Know what you believe and really believe it. Stand up for it with conviction. And whatever you do, don't be afraid to tell others what you believe when asked - or when NOT asked ;)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Rescue me

This past couple of months have been very difficult for me. I'm struggling with some things and it leaves me at a loss of what to say on here. I'd rather this be an encouraging blog, rather than one filled with discouragement and questions that bring you down if you don't find the answers either.
I was reading this morning from Judges 10, and in it the children of Israel were upset because they had lost to another country and they had been oppressed for the last 18 years. Finally they cry out to God for help. Here's the conversation they had after they asked for God's help.

11 The LORD replied, "When the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, 12 the Sidonians, the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you and you cried to me for help, did I not save you from their hands? 13 But you have forsaken me and served other gods, so I will no longer save you. 14 Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen. Let them save you when you are in trouble!"
15 But the Israelites said to the LORD, "We have sinned. Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now." 16 Then they got rid of the foreign gods among them and served the LORD. And he could bear Israel's misery no longer.

I am wondering at the situation that I'm mucking through right now. I have to say, I fully agree with the sentiments of the children as they said "Do with us whatever you think best, but please rescue us now".

There is good news in this story though. He could bear Israels misery no longer. He was bearing it, He wasn't enjoying their misery, he was bearing their misery until He couldn't any longer. I know God has a special favor towards the children of Israel and the Jews, but He loves me too. I can only hope and pray that God bears through my misery and at some point, He will be moved with compassion and will rescue me.
I'm tired, and my only hope for relief is in Him. And my faith lies in the fact that He is the surest place in which to place my hope.
Are you doing the same?

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Hate/Love the moment

I've been on this world 25 years today. I wish I could tell you that there's some amazing revelation that comes with age, but if it's there I didn't receive it today. I did become introspective today and did some thinking, and here's what I discovered.

I love my life.

I love my family, I love my niece and nephew, I love my home and my music, and I really love the cool wind on a warm day.
I believe though, that one of the ways I continue to enjoy those things is the struggle that I'm always in with these things. I'm always, always fighting for more. More moments, more happiness, more quiet, more noise, more passion, more, more, more. In the end, it's the ever present struggle that tells me I'm fighting for exactly where and what I want to be in life. And that's what makes this walk, really worthwhile.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Choking on my own words

My very last post was on how we shouldn't be in a hurry to get out of the fire. So I spent 4 days sweating in it, quite literally.
I caught something, and Thursday morning ended up with a high fever that never ended. I haven't eaten since that same Thursday morning except this morning I've eaten successfully, a can of peaches - it took nearly two hours to finish. My strength has absolutely left me. Now that the fever is gone I'm resting in a chair and find that to truly rest my head has to be laid back on something so I'm not supporting it's weight. I've never really noticed how heavy my head was before, so this is rather unique.
Meanwhile, I've had plenty of time to think.
I have the best job in the world. I help get people jobs, work 8-5, got 2 weeks vacation the year I signed on and in two more years, I'll even get more time. I get a huge Christmas bonus, and paid holidays and a birthday goodie box and a raise every - single - year and I found myself thinking "This isn't the job for me". And now I'm wondering if God has something better in mind for me.
By better I don't mean with all the benefits my company's given me, but better for me in an all-around way is better period.
Even I realize, especially knowing todays job market, how crazy it would be for me to leave a wonderful job like this. Especially when some of my other realizations this week were that monsters must be poking me in my bed and that's why I couldn't sleep. But one thing I also realize, holding onto my prize, whenever God calls me to trade one for another, is foolish. It would be scary as all get out to ever let this job go. But if it's God's plan I can't wait to see then when, how, what, and where's that are involved.