Tuesday, February 28, 2012

It's Not Supposed to be This Way

Our family has joined thousands of others who are changing eating habits due to food allergies or intolerances. I’m still in the learning curve – how to eliminate gluten, nuts and dairy from our diet but I can’t help but think, “This isn’t how it’s supposed to be.” John 10:10 says the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy but Jesus came so we would have abundant life. I don’t see how it can be considered abundant when we have so many limitations on what we can and can’t eat.

You might think I’m in the denial stage of change. I understand North Americans have developed ways to process everything we eat to increase the profit margin for food manufacturers and by doing so, we’ve ingested chemicals and steroids for so long our bodies are finally making a revolt. It’s true the food industry needs an overhaul to return to the basics where food is actually food – not simulations, but even so, doesn’t Mark 16:18 apply?

“...and when they drink [or eat] deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all”

Unless you exclusively eat organic foods, whole grain and nothing processed, most of what we eat has been treated with chemicals. It can definitely be classified as poison. Although the food industry should have an overhaul, I don’t see that happening so in the face of widespread food-related illnesses, allergies and intolerances I have faith to see Mark 16:18 become a reality in our everyday life.

In the last days the scripture says we’ll see an increase of signs and wonders. It’s already happening in developing countries and many places outside of North America. In many places around the world, there is no Plan B medical plan; they require supernatural intervention or death is certain. I believe we are setting ourselves up for such a move of God in North America as well. We need God to save us from ourselves.

I want to see healing breakthrough in many things (in everything) but one of the issues on my heart has long been for food allergies – even before it affected our family. The first prayer I felt God leading me to pray for was a woman severely affected by food allergies. The prayer has been unanswered to date but I still pray for it, believing God and his word in Mark 16:18.

It’s not supposed to be this way, it’s not denial, it’s truth. However, until I see the word of God fulfilled I’m not going to take offense by what I don’t see. I’m not going to stick my head in the sand and pretend it’s not affecting our family. I will change our eating habits so we eat whole foods with as little additives as possible and I am going to still believe for miracles and healing so that heaven is truly seen on earth.

How about you? What areas do you think, “this isn’t the way it’s supposed to be?”

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Psalms for Sunday - XXXVI

I go to the House of the Lord, and with one voice, we worship the Might One, the only One who is worthy to receive praise. We laugh in the place of sorrow.

Joy, such unspeakable joy; the joy you have for your people is my strength.
Peace like flood waters wash over your people.

I desire to see a glimpse into heaven, to do what the angels do, to sing what the angels. In the worship, I’m still, longing for more of heaven, more of the Lord.

In my heart I see one, two, three angels in humble adoration; solemn and worshipful. They have joined with human voice to give praise to the One Most Holy. It’s their stance I remark about; deep reverence for the Creator. They saw the others fall, but they have remained true and they worship.

Teach me to worship; teach me to praise the Name of the Lord in perfect reverence and fear so that I might share in the wisdom of heaven.

The Lord, my God, is worthy to receive blessings, glory and honour.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Living Large

People love boxes. More boxes equal more stuff and we love stuff even more than boxes, but boxes mean we have stuff. We like boxes and we want pretty boxes. The organizational section of any given department store or Fred Meyer has an overwhelming display of sizes, shapes and colours. Not only do we organize our stuff by putting it in boxes, we also catalogue our lives into allegorical boxes, labeling everything from experiences to people. 

We love our boxes, and yet, some common phrases, “outside the box”, or “boxed in” and descriptions such as “boxy” denote a negative connotation. It seems that although we love to live our lives in boxes (constricted way of thinking and living); we have a sense that there is more to life than what we’ve put in our box.  If that’s true, should we get rid of the box entirely?

I’m not making an argument either for or against living within a defined method of thinking.  I can’t imagine life without it because I like the comfort and security a defined box providesWhether or not boxes are necessary for living isn’t the question but the knowledge Jesus is beside us in the box is the only answer we need. 

Despite the comfort of my box, I am aware having a narrow focus may hinder my ability to serve God; mercifully God is not hindered by my narrow box.  Several years ago I read Quiet Shouts – Stories of Lancaster Mennonite Women Leaders by Louise Stoltzfus.  The book chronicled many women dating from the turn of the 20th century up to around 1950.  As I was reading, I was struck by the amazing way God chose to work through women in leadership capacities, despite in the past women have been unable to officially work in church leadership roles.  He acknowledges our boxes and simply increases the size so his plans are still fulfilled.

We’ve heard humans use less than 10% of their brain capacity.  What if God intended us to live large but like our limited brain function, we are only living 10% of the life we could be living?  Often the 10% life we are living seems quite adequate and most of the time we don’t realize there’s more – until we read it John 10:10 when Christ said, “I have come that they may have life and have it to the full,” and we say to ourselves, “Oh yeah, life to the fullest – I wonder what it looks like?”

Matthew 14 offers a glimpse of what life might be like if we filled our box.  It had been an incredible day –it started out by hearing some very bad news – John the Baptist, Jesus’ friend and cousin was brutally beheaded and when he tried to get away by boat to absorb the awful news, crowds of people followed on foot and surrounded him when he reached his destination.  The Bible says Jesus had compassion on the crowd and healed the sick. 
He let go of his own emotional needs to heal the emotional and physical needs of the people.  On the same day, Jesus also miraculously fed 5,000 men (plus women & children).  Wow. Living a full life means we can give graciously to others, despite our own needs.  We also receive a glimpse if we allow God to work, we are not confined (nor defined) by our inadequate physical offerings.  Jesus shows us the possibility by his example and Peter shows us the reality and the hope. 
It all happened in one day and afterward Jesus sent the disciples on their way while he continued to deal with the crowd.  After experiencing the exhilaration of watching God at work firsthand, you would think the disciples immediately rushed to tell others about the impossibilities that become possibilities through the Holy Spirit. Sadly, they reacted like many of us do; they got back into their fishing boats because that’s what they knew to do – it was familiar and comfortable. 

Perhaps the disciples didn’t deserve another chance at redemption but Jesus didn’t come so they could be satisfied with fishing, he wanted to give them a fuller life, so in the middle of the night, they saw Jesus walking towards them on the water!  Everyone was terrified, but Peter said, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  In other words, Peter was asking, “Lord, if it’s you, expand my way of thinking, give me fuller life and let me do what you do.”  And Peter did it. 

The hope Peter gives us is it’s possible for simple human beings to expand our thinking (and so our box becomes larger) and do miraculous things – as long as our gaze is fixed on Jesus.  Jesus wants to give us life to the full; keep your gaze on Jesus in all circumstances and be prepared as He increases the size of your box.   

Enjoy life and live large.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Don't Sell Me the Opportunity, Give Me the Goods

Remember Amway? If you grew up in the evangelical church, you’ll know it. Heck, you might have even been involved with Amway but for those that don’t know what I’m talking about, allow me to offer you the Reader’s Digest explanation. Amway was (and still is) a multi-level marketing company.  They targeted church folks because who else has such a large network? Amway preached prosperity gospel and encouraged members to display pictures of their dream house/vehicle/boat/vacations on their fridge as an incentive to increase their recruiting efforts.

My Man and I had firsthand experience with Amway consultants when we were first married. We didn’t buy into the message they were selling and in the process we felt used and abused.  The trouble with Amway is that I like some of the products, especially their pre-wash laundry spray, however no one wants to sell the product, they only want to sell the opportunity. It seems many churches are like Amway – they want to sell the opportunity to “do church” but they lack inviting you to participate in the substance of Christian faith, which is Jesus. It’s not their fault; they can’t offer what they don’t have.

The church is interested in doing things for Jesus but they haven’t realized Jesus left the building. Doesn’t anyone else wonder why Jesus was standing outside the church in Laodicea while the congregation were in there supposedly worshipping him? Unfortunately, many churches today are similar. Like Amway, we want new church recruits but when other people start asking for the goods we’re like a deer caught in headlights. A blank stare is the only answer to the one pertinent question, “Isn’t there more?”

There is more but it isn’t found in creative programs, or good teaching, or awesome music. It’s found in a real relationship with a real God. People are tired of empty recruiting promises offered to get you in the door of the church. It may work for a while but soon enough people become wise to the glitz and glamour which is a smokescreen designed to hide the fact they don’t have anything more to offer.

Jesus is amazing and more than enough. When we invite him back into our church and release the Holy Spirit to come again like he did at Pentecost, we will [once again] see the harvest the early church saw in the books of Acts. The presence of God attracted the harvest, not their programs, teaching or music.

So, how do we get from here to there? The answer is simple – hunger. I can guarantee the church is not hungry if we haven’t noticed Jesus is on the outside knocking.  If you are still lingering over the last meal you ate, you’re not very hungry for anything now. Have you ever seen 3rd world hungry people? They aren’t very polite when the rice truck comes rolling in. Small, frail women, and scraggly children turn into beasts, trying to get to the food first. That’s the kind of hunger we need to have for the presence of God. Because the hungry get fed. There is food for the ones who want it.

Do you want the opportunity to “do church” or do you want the actual goods – the presence of God? Are you hungry?

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Psalms for Sunday - XXXV

I lift my head to you and one word escapes, “Help.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Isn't She Lovely?

I wonder how many couples became engaged on Valentine’s Day. Spring is the most popular season to have a wedding so there will be hundreds of brides planning and preparing to be married within a few months. A number of brides will diet, primp and preen to look her best on her wedding day and she will have support from friends and family to help her meet her goal. The payoff is that she will look beautiful; dressed in white with flawless hair and make-up. All the hard work it took to get to that moment will be worth the sacrifice and guests will rejoice at the wedding.

In general, we love weddings. We love love stories and we love seeing the bride look beautiful. Why is it then we defile the bride of Christ?

Jesus is coming again, and he’s coming for a wedding. The Bible tells us the bride (which is the church) will be pure and spotless and yet Christians love to expose and make a mockery of other Christians who put a stain on the bride. I don’t suggest we cover-up things that need to be removed (sexual abuse, power abuse, or abuse of any kind) but too often denominations take pot-shots at another and expose ugliness instead of praying for one another and loving each other as Christ already loves us. It’s not just denominations doing it to each other but blog after Christian blog expose for the sake of public shaming, rather than trying to bring around Godly restoration. Jesus always redeemed the one caught in sin. None of us were shamed into the Kingdom of God, why do we think it would work on anyone else?  

The practice of exposing our family member’s error in judgment is nothing new. Genesis 9:20-23 offer a glimpse into another family – Noah’s family. Noah was drinking. He was enjoying the fruit of his labour (maybe a little too much) and he passed out with his tunic falling open to his nakedness. His youngest son saw it and instead of covering his father, he exposed his father’s shame further by telling his brothers. The two older brothers would not even look upon their father naked, and made every effort to help their father save face. As a reward for their actions, the younger son received a curse, while the older two received a blessing.

The interesting thing in this story is it’s about family. No one else is involved, just one family member shaming another family member. The one who does the shaming doesn’t offer any covering, whereas the other two bring something with them to cover the shame and exposure of their father. Shouldn’t we do that for our fellow Believers? Aren’t we considered a family? Let me state clearly again, we do not cover-up something that needs to be removed but when we expose for the purpose of shaming, the church is weakened and tarnished with no plan for recovery.

 Jesus is coming back for a pure and spotless bride. Jesus sees us as we will be, not as we are. Hebrews 10:14 says we are perfect already, the ones who are being made holy. What is the process of “being made holy”? Of course it involves correction however Scripture offers multiple avenues for discipline (not punishment).  1 Samuel 12:20-23 doesn’t excuse the behaviour (you have done all this evil), but gives hope (yet don’t turn from the Lord because he was pleased to make you his own). Then the passage instructs the other believers (failing to pray = sin). The one who sinned or the one who caught the sinner are not instructed to expose and flaunt the shame.

In addition to the Old Testament at least two New Testament passages come to mind for Biblical conflict resolution: Matthew 18:15-17 where the protocol is outlined for when a brother sins against you – first to the individual, then to trusted individuals, then to the church, and then consider the one who sinned to no longer be a part of the church body. However, it does not suggest continuing to air dirty laundry past the doors of the church. Another example of finding someone in sin is the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). Jesus didn’t shame her, even though he would have been the only one who could have because he was a man without sin.

Jesus is coming back for a lovely bride. Will we stand in the way and expose the shame? Or will we pray for grace and mercy for others because we’ve been recipients of the same grace and mercy in our own lives?

“As for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”
1 Samuel 12:23
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