Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Autumn is One of my 4 Favourite Seasons

What are you looking forward to this fall? This week the writers at Kingdom Bloggers have invaded Joyce Lighari's website, Sounds of Hope to answer this question. Head over there and share what you're anticipating this season.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hold On for the Blessing

Indulge me a moment, take a minute and look up Hebrews 11:41 – what does your Bible say? It’s okay, I’ll wait.

Oh? Hebrews 11:41 doesn’t exist, you say. It does in my Bible. It says, ‘By faith, Andrea persevered through trial and held on for the blessing that was promised her.’

Perseverance isn’t a core value in our culture anymore. Fewer couples make it to their 25th wedding anniversary and many companies no longer have tenure reward ceremonies. Seth Godin, marketing guru, pushes the message ‘newer, faster, better’ and we’ve bought into it. Big time. We have a consumer mentality. We want it all, we want it now, and tomorrow we want something new.

The problem is (and we know this already) the kingdom of heaven operates differently than our culture. In fact, most things in the kingdom of heaven is the exact opposite of our cultural mindsets.

Hebrews 11 is the Lord’s hall of fame; the problem is none of them received what was promised, which was Christ. Even us – we are caught the tension of now, and not yet. How well are we doing? Is your name written in the next verse, Hebrews 11:41?

Jacob is one of my favourite Bible characters. In Genesis 32, he is in a precarious position; Laban is behind him and Esau is in front of him. It’s fair to assume that Jacob feels like his conniving and deceit is going to get its revenge. He sends his family ahead and lies down for the night. I wouldn’t put it past him to think about running for the hills as a way of escape. He closes his eyes to rest for a moment and as quickly they pop open, wide. He’s sure he heard someone say, ARE YOU READY TO RUMBLE? Jacob doesn’t even have time to turn his ear towards the sound when he receives a forearm smash from behind. It’s going to be a long night, he’s thinking.

Many of us – most of us – would give up and choose not to fight. We’re tired, life’s problems are coming from every side and still we get side-swiped. It’s not fair, it can’t be God, so we give and let go. And we miss the blessing we could have had.

Jacob didn’t let go; he hung on until he received the blessing even though it hurt like h-e-double hockey sticks to get it. Hebrews 11:21 says even to the end of his life, he leaned on a cane because of the pain in his hip that he received from the angel and he worshipped because he knew that God is faithful to those who persevere.

I think that’s the difference between someone in the Lord’s hall of fame and someone highly esteemed in our culture. The Lord values perseverance – going the distance with him and knowing, by faith, that there is blessing on the other side of the pain, or trial, or wrestling match.

Look back at Hebrews 11:41 again, do you see it now? What does it say? What blessing are you holding on for?

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Psalms for Sunday - XII

Psalms for Sunday are posted guessed it, Sunday. Subscribe by email and receive it directly to you.

The land is cursed and every year I go to that place, but this year is different. I recall the promises and words the Lord has spoken and I am not afraid. 

On every side, I see open graveyards and the fallen lying exposed and forgotten. There is death and destruction on the road. My life was threatened but the Lord was with me. The Lord of heaven is always with me.

The beauty of creation belies the truth. Men who live there love the beauty but they don’t give glory and honor to whom the beauty is formed by. It will not save them; the cold seeps into your bones like a stronghold and it won’t let go until you are conquered. No more! 

For a little while, the Light left but like the sun that breaks through the fog at noonday, so will the Lord of Hosts reclaim this place. The salmon that run through prophesy to the harvest that is coming. 
I raise a banner on the ocean’s edge and walk along the paths with purpose and intention. I am given a new song and I sing it.

The Lord will be worshipped and exalted. Rise up and sing with me.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Mistake [almost] Everyone Makes on Reality TV Shows

I watch reality shows. I admit it. My favourite used to be Amazing Race  but I stopped watching several years ago because I was tired of coaching from my living room with no one taking my advice (I’ve since turned to blogging). Nearly everyone makes the same error and it’s not just on the Amazing Race - it happens on almost every reality TV show.

Hebrews 12:1, Therefore since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders us and the sin that so easily entangles us and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.

I taught grade 4 Sunday School this year and Hebrews 12:1 was one of our memory verses. As an object lesson, I put the kids in two teams and set up a race. I told them that their instructions were to get from the starting line to the finish line. It was clearly marked with masking tape. I asked the kids to repeat back the instructions so I was sure they knew what to do.

As the first kids were about to start, I put a Kleenex on their foot and I gave each of the kids in the line a Kleenex too. Then as each child approached the starting line, I added different obstacles. For example, for one child I told him to put on large adult Sorel snow boots. I used skipping ropes to tie up the legs on another child. One child I told him to follow me and we walked around the hallway before I brought him back to the starting line. For another, I extended the line with masking tape. Another child carried a pitcher of water on his head.

The children were also excellent at keeping the others in line. After the first child managed to the finish line with the Kleenex still on their foot, the precedence was set like jello and they took care of policing themselves. When one child tucked the Kleenex in her shoe to keep it from falling off, they looked at me to referee. I just shrugged. Finally we were done – 10 children, 10 different added obstacles.

As we sat down to the lesson, I asked them to repeat the instructions I had given them. And then I asked them why they didn’t follow them. I watched their faces and it was pretty much simultaneous when the lesson hit their minds and their eyes flashed understanding.

We get off course, we go places we don’t need to, we give others our power and authority and we focus on what others are or are not doing. Distraction. It gets to most of us and it’s the #1 mistake that every participant on a reality TV show makes. They get caught up in the drama and lose focus on why they are there – to win.

I wish that we were all like Nehemiah when he said to his distracters, I am carrying on a great project and cannot go down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and go down to you? (Nehemiah 6:3) Let’s run the race marked out for us – for us, not for anyone else. Like a racehorse, let’s keep our eye on the prize, which is Christ. If you have to, put on blinders so you see only what the Lord has put in front of you.

What distracts you from running the race? I’ll answer too in the comments.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Can You Find God in the Movies?

As someone with a Biblical worldview, it’s impossible for me to watch or read something without filtering it through that lens.

This week (and the following 4 weeks) Kingdom Bloggers are guest posting on each other’s personal blogs. We’re over at Fire & Grace this week, discussing a theological view from our favourite movie or TV show.

Head over there, and I’ll reveal a secret that I don’t tell many people.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Unschooled & Ordinary

Unschooled and ordinary. Yes. Those two words describe me. I don’t have letters behind my name. I have nothing to hang on my wall. I have nothing to prove that I’m educated. And ordinary, yes, I’m definitely that too. There is nothing about me that is unique. If I’ve done it, then so has someone else, and they probably did it better too. Sure, I have talents but not so much that I stand ahead of the rest. I’m ordinary, plain, average.

Peter and John were described as unschooled and ordinary in Acts 4:13. They were called to stand before the formidable Sanhedrin - the religious ruling body. In a ruling council, 23 leaders including the High Priest stand in a demi-circle around the defendants with other law students watching from their position on the floor. The Sanhedrin was made up entirely of the elite, privileged and educated. The contrast between the Sanhedrin to Peter and John was like a Harvard graduate to a self-educated drywaller. It was intimidating to stand before the Sanhedrin. They expected fear and cowardness. 

But, this time? This time, it was different. The Sanhedrin were astonished by the courage of Peter and John. Can’t you just imagine the scene? If it were a movie, it would be a dramatic scene with close ups on their faces and audible gasps. The patronizing look on the faces of the Sanhedrin would begin to turn into a frown and then finally into the open-mouth, eyes-gawking look of astonishment. The young students would look from their leaders to the fishermen wondering who these men that are unafraid of the Sanhedrin are.

What kind of confidence is that and where does it come from? Scripture tells us that their confidence comes from spending time in the presence of Jesus. Even the Sanhedrin acknowledged this. Peter and John walked and talked with Jesus and were witness to Jesus’ ministry on earth. They believed Jesus when he said that he was going away but the Holy Spirit was going to come so that they would do even greater things than what they witnessed with Jesus. Peter and John were in the upper room when the Holy Spirit filled them with power, fulfilling what Jesus said.

Most of all, Peter and John believed Jesus, received the Holy Spirit and that made all the difference between confidence in the name of Jesus and cowering before an elite group of rulers.

I recognize myself in Acts 4:13 and I take that verse as the one that defines my life; when I lack confidence and I need reassurance, my fingers automatically find their way to the books of Acts, chapter 4. I’m reminded that I need to spend time in the presence of Jesus because that’s where my confidence comes from and it’s what makes me different.

Are others astonished by what Jesus is able to accomplish in your life, despite limitations?  Do others see that the difference is Jesus? 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Psalms for Sunday - XI

Psalms for Sunday are posted guessed it, Sunday. Subscribe by email and receive it directly to you.

I am discouraged today. 

Where is the deliverance? Where is the victory? “It’s finished,” you say but I feel undone, unfinished.
I hear laughter – it’s mocking me.

How long, Jesus before your glory is everlasting among your people? Will I see it? Will my children? Or will I be counted as one who received the promise but never set my eyes on it? I lose hope in the length of days that stretches before me. Each day is a weight and the light seems to fade even more.

At this moment, the sun casts its warmth on me, as if to remind me of the Son who is always near.

I will praise your name and declare your promises in the presence of my enemy. On the places they tread, I will proclaim resurrection and reconciliation. I will be an overcomer; my enemy will not prevail against me and I will not turn back until I receive the blessing.

You are glorious, majestic and beautiful. Forgive me, Father, for losing sight of your fearsome strength.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Roadtrip with God - Are We There Yet?

Last Friday, I wrote a post called Messy Church. More than half of my twitter followers clicked on the link to the post – obviously people can relate. It generated quite a number of comments, which lead to the next post on Tuesday called, Should We Even Bother?  In that post, I wrote about continuing to press into the Lord to look and ask for his direction. Despite our faithlessness to follow through, God continues to be faithful as we seek his face.

While that is certainly true, seemingly opposite turns of events does not necessarily mean that one thing was right and one thing was wrong. To give an actual example, the church I attended hired a lead pastor almost 5 years ago. Most recently, the pastor was asked for a resignation (a nice way of saying he was fired). It appears the leadership team did a 180° when faced with pressure from the congregation because they no longer liked what the pastor was doing. The topic today is: what if God used both events to bring about the change the church needed?

The journey from Egypt to the Promised Land is an 11-day journey by foot; given the estimated 2 million Israelites (counting women & children), let’s allow 15 days for bathroom breaks, etc. For most Christians, this bit of geography trivia is well-known. We know it and quote it with smugness and pride, suggesting that the Israelites were ignorant of God’s will and ways and had they been listening to God instead of complaining, then they could have saved themselves 40 years in the desert. I disagree and I believe the Bible supports a wilderness experience, as designated by God.

First, way back in Genesis, before the Israelites were Israelites, before any children were born to Abraham God told Abram (he wasn’t even Abraham yet) that God was giving him the land but it wasn’t going to be for a long time. Why? Because the sin of the Amorites had not yet reached its full measure (Genesis 15:12-16). Say what? The Lord, in his foreknowledge, knew that the Amorites were a wicked people and he was going to use the Israelites to punish the Amorites, but time had to pass before the Lord would act on their wickedness. Sometimes our desert experience isn’t just about us. Sometimes, the Lord is preparing another person and will use us as his instrument for action.

Second, fast forward 400 years, and God’s people are in the desert. He could have taken them a shorter way through the Philistine country but he didn’t (Exodus 13:17-18). Why? Because if they passed through the Philistine country, they would be faced with war which they weren’t prepared for so God, in his grace, rerouted them. God is kind towards his people. He never sets us up to fail. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that he will never tempt us beyond what we can bear. Sometimes, the best route is the one that takes longer because the most direct route has pitfalls in which we will surely fail.

Third, when the Israelites would finally take the land God promised, they were going to have to fight for it.  The enemies in the land were stronger than they were (Deuteronomy 7:1-2); they were slaves – what did they know about battle? God used the desert to toughen them and change their thinking from slave men to fighting men. Sometimes, we just need time to grow into what he's made us to be.

In the same way that the Lord used 40 long years in the desert to bring the Israelites to the Promised Land, perhaps God uses different events to bring about the change necessary to bring us into align with his ultimate will for our destiny. It applies personally, as well as corporately.

God is less concerned about comfort, as he is with holiness. God’s chief desire is to dwell among his people and have relationship with us, but he is holy and he requires us to be holy if we want his presence.

Have you had a desert experience? Did you question whether it was God’s plan? Did it make you bitter or better?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

What I Know For Sure

In her first O, The Oprah Magazine column, Oprah wrote: "We are all the causes of our own effects, ... That's why I'll never stop asking the question, 'What do you know for sure?'"

Nearly every Tuesday morning for 6 years when I was leading Women’s Ministry at the church, one woman shared what she knew for sure. It never ceased to amaze me that the number of women who attended and the same amount of different ways that God taught us all different things for the seaon we were in our lives.

This week over at Kingdom Bloggers, we are writing about the most important lesson we’ve learned in our faith journey. You could say we’re answering the question Oprah asks every month in her magazine.

What do you know for sure?  Click over to Kingdom Bloggers and check out what I know for sure and leave a message to desribe your most important lesson.
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