Blog-Hopping (Feb.27)

Today I’ve been blog-hopping… and reading articles I’ve found on these new blogs. And, some of them were just soooo good, I had to share!

At LifeLivedFully.com, I found this post, the other day, about Why Some People Don’t Like Christians… and it really resonated with me. From there, I found her other post about how church should be more Like Going to a Bar… I’m telling you, this is GOOD READING!

Then, from that blog, I found Leigh’s blog, HopefulLeigh. And, her post, “Defining Me, Defining My Faith” was really inspiring. How do you define your faith? This kind of reminds me of the question asked in a video I was watching at my church, the other night: Have you sat down with Jesus to have the DTR talk? (Defining The Relationship) ~ figuring out where you stand?

And, lastly, I found Rebekah Gilbert’s blog, A New Song to Sing, and really liked her post about Distorted Views. Oh, how many “distorted” views I have! This blog post was convicting.

So, I encourage you today to go on over and read these posts… and hey, come back and let me know what you think! We’ll talk. 😉

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Learning…

Well, since I did a post, already, about the stuff I’m unsure about, I thought I’d also do a post about what I’m learning / enjoying in this same study, “Experiencing God” by Henry & Richard Blackaby (and Claude King).

p. 14 ~ “Look to see how God generally works throughout the Scriptures. When you learn how God has consistently related to people throughout history, you can expect Him to work in a similar way with you.”

I really liked this! It’s a good reminder, first of all, that God never changes. And, I like knowing that God has provided a guidebook for our lives, so we can see how things were resolved in the past, and have hope for our future.

p.15 ~ The focus needs to be on God, not on my life.” (example: not “What can I do for God?”, but “What does God want to do through me?”)

Too often we make it about ourselves… we forget that we’re playing a part in God’s story, and that life here on earth isn’t about us. I’m certainly guilty of this. I get so caught up in the day-to-day dramas of life, that I forget that there’s a bigger picture.

p. 20 ~ “God wants you to come to a greater knowledge of Him by experience.”

I can definitely say that I’ve gotten to know God better through experiences of Him than I have had than through any reading I’ve done, or through any teaching I’ve heard. God has shown Himself in many different ways, sometimes more powerful, sometimes more subtle, but always in a way that I knew it was Him.

p. 25 ~ “As Moses obeyed God, God accomplished through Moses what Moses could not do in his own strength.”

Over and over, in my reading of the Bible (and through other Christian sources), I’ve learned that I can do nothing in my own strength and actually succeed… it has to be God that does it through me, if it’s going to work. But yet, over and over again, I go back to trying to do things in my own strength, praying that God will help me succeed. How silly! “For apart from me you can do nothing!“, God says in John 15:5. But, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me“, He also says in Philippians 4:13. 😉

p.33 ~ “God-centeredness requires the daily death of self and submission to God.”

A lot of times I’ll think that submission and death-of-self are a one-time thing… I’ll pray for God to take the reins, and think that it’ll all be smooth-sailing from there, only to find out the next day that I have to lay it all down again!

p. 43 ~ “God has not changed. He still speaks to people.”

This is comforting. I love knowing that my God is the same one that I read about through the Scriptures; the same God who sent His Son to die for me; the same God who says He loves me. And, I love that He speaks to me. 😉

p. 45 ~ “Do not assume that the moment God calls you, you are prepared for the assignment.” -and- p.47 ~ “God uses the smaller assignments to develop character… If God has a great task for you, He will expand your character to match that assignment.

Sometimes we have to be patient and wait to see what God will do. Sometimes we’re called by God, but we’re not yet fully ready to take on what He’s asked of us.

I liked how, in the study book, the authors used the example of Abraham… God told him that he’d be the father of many nations, but Abraham had to wait 25 years to start to see anything come from that promise! In the meantime, though, God was preparing Abraham to be able to live that out… He knew that Abraham’s character had to be developed a bit more before Abraham would be ready to be the father of Isaac, etc.

p. 48 ~ “Often God will deliberately ask you to do what you failed to do in your own strength. Now you will do it in His strength.”

Anyone other than me find that they have to go through the same things over and over again, ’til they finally get it? LOL. I’m an awfully stubborn creature, apparently, ’cause there are some lessons that I have to repeat time and time again, in order to fully learn that God is the one who is in charge. 😕

p. 53 ~ “I could say I obey Him, I serve Him, I worship Him, I fear Him. But I cannot say I love Him.

Ugh. This one is a hard one to admit to. But, I think it’s true of me. It’s not that I don’t love God at all — it’s more so that I don’t love Him enough. The Bible tells us that we show we love God when we obey Him, and do what He says. (1 John 2:5) And, I have a hard time doing that. I still too often want to do everything my own way, and I too often live life as if it’s all about me.

p. 55 ~ “If you knew all you had was a relationship with God, would you be totally and completely satisfied?

I wish I could say “yes”, but I’m not to that point, yet. I hope to get there, some day, though. I’m praying that that will be true of me at some point!

p. 58 ~ “Make sure you are investing your life, time, and resources in things that will last, not things that will pass away… Only God can guide you to invest your life in worthwhile ways.”

This was timely, as I’ve just recently made up a list of how I can be more intentional in my daily living. It all started when I read Chris & Kerry Shook’s book, “One Month to Live“. It got me thinking about how I spend my time, and about how a lot of what I do is not really investing in my future (eternity). Much of what I do isn’t really worthwhile, when you look at it from that perspective. So, I’ve decided that I’d like to change that.

This little quote, though, showed me that my list is going to need to be revised… because I left God out of the equation. I didn’t ask Him how He thinks I should best spend my time/resources.

Experiencing God” ~ our new study

My church’s ladies’ Bible study group has chosen to do Henry & Richard Blackaby’s (and Claude King’s) book, “EXPERIENCING GOD“, this time around. They needed to step away from Beth Moore, for a while, as too many of the ladies were focusing on Beth’s teaching, instead of on what God was trying to teach them. And, the leaders seriously believe that God was calling them to do “Experiencing God“.

We’re only just beginning week 2, but already I can see that I’m going to have difficulty with this study. While I’m enjoying it, and certainly finding things in it that I can  use, I also have “experienced” (pardon the pun) some theological “red flags“, too.

For example, on page 15 of the workbook, the authors write, “‘If you ask the wrong question, you will get the wrong answer.’ Sometimes we assume that every question is legitimate. However, when we ask the wrong question, we may find an answer but remain disoriented to God and His activity. Always check to see whether you have asked the right question before you pursue the answer.

I honestly don’t believe that there are “illegitimate” questions. In my opinion, every question is legitimate, as that’s how we learn (by asking questions).

And, I don’t believe that we have to ask the “right” questions to get a proper answer from God. God is not spiteful, giving us wrong answers just because we haven’t asked the “right” question. God knows we’re fallible human beings, and He is always going to give us His right answer, regardless.

In a recent devotional my mom sent me –after we’d discussed this particular “red flag” from the study– God confirmed my beliefs. The devotional said this:

“…May we come to a realization that You’re pleased even in our searching, and You [God] honor our honest questions. Thank You for accepting us in our struggles and understanding our doubts…” [Charles Swindoll, “For Daily Doubts” devotional, excerpted from “The Prayers of Charles R. Swindoll, Volume 1″]

God honors our honest questions. They don’t have to be “right”, they just have to be honest. “Seek… and you will find”,  God says. (Matthew 6:33).

Another “red flag” I had was on page 14, where the author writes, “Your experience is valid only as it is confirmed in the Scriptures.” This just didn’t sit right with me, and I’m still not sure why… I just know that I get irked by it. I have to research this one a bit more, though, before I can say why I think it’s a “red flag”. (If you have an opinion about it, please leave a comment!).

Anyhoo. This isn’t to say that I don’t like this study. As I said before, there are definitely things that I’m getting out of it ~ enjoying ~ too. For example, I like that we are encouraged to look to see how God consistently responded in the Scriptures, and remember that He will still respond in this way to situations, today. God never changes. And, I liked that I’m being reminded that this life is not about me/us… it’s about God. This is God’s story… and we are priviledged to play a part in it.

My favorite part of this study, though, is how the author keeps stressing that God reveals what He is about to do to His people! Here’s a quote from the book, page 23:

Whenever God prepares to do something,
He reveals to a person or His people
what He is about to do.

Right after this sentence, there was a verse quoted… Amos 3:7, which says, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.” And, I thought to myself that this verse would be great to add to my collection of “proof” that God reveals the future to people. So, I went to my notebook to add this verse… and found that it was the same verse that I’d last added to my notebook! LOL. How cool is that?!

Anyway. I will share more from this study as the weeks go on. But, for now, that’s all I wanted to mention. 😉

The Irresistable Revolution

 I recently read this book, by Shane Claiborne, called “The Irresistable Revolution“. And, its message has really been niggling at the back of my brain, ever since I finished it.

The book is Shane’s sort of memoir about how he and his group, The Simple Way, are reaching out to the homeless of the world, and just basically aiming to love God, and love others. They base their group and actions on the original Way of Jesus, found in the second chapter of the book of Acts (in the Bible).

This book really convicted me that I’m not doing anything much for God… I read my Bible, and I meet with other Christians on a fairly regular basis, but what else shows the world that I follow Jesus? What sets me apart from non-believers? Would anyone be able to tell the difference if you compared my life with a non-believer’s life? Probably not… and that’s a shame.

I’m thinking, now, about how I could make a difference in my community. What can I do to reach out like Jesus did? How could I show God’s love to others?

Lots to think about… I will write more later, when I figure out how to say what I’m feeling and thinking about. 😉

Read ‘n Respond: “Pagan Christianity?” by Frank Viola & George Barna

paganchristianity_frankviola_georgebarnaI’m currently reading a book called “Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices” by Frank Viola & George Barna. And, while it’s a really interesting book, with a lot of good points, I’m a bit disturbed by some of the things they’re saying. My internal warning bells are going off, big time.

For example…

On page 116, the authors write, “The non-New Testament concept of sacerdotalism — the belief that there exists a divinely appointed person to mediate between God and the people — originated with Cyprian [of Carthage].

But, I beg to differ! In the Old Testament, God did appoint mediators… He gave the Israelites the high priests that were the go-betweens between God & His people. They were the ones who entered the Holy of Holies at specific times to make atonement for the peoples’ sins (see Leviticus 16:1-34). Moses was also a mediator between God and His people. He was the only one allowed to go up the mountain to meet with God, and receive instruction (see Exodus 19).

Originally, I also had issue with the fact that the authors were claiming that the church building was something we shouldn’t have. I thought, “But we’re to meet together with other believers (Heb.10:25), so we need a place to gather“. But, then they clarified that the church’s architecture is made to elicit a response… it teaches us “what the church is, and how it functions” (p.37).

And, their talk about how a pastor is a hinderance also got up my ire. They claim that there’s no mention of a pastor in the Bible. And, I thought, “But it does talk about shepherding God’s people, and leadership. (see 1 Timothy 3 and Ezekiel 34:1-10).” But, then I realized that, even though it talks about shepherds leading God’s people, that also could mean anyone in the church who is gifted with leadership. And the authors then clarified that “shepherds” refers to people who have a natural talent for nurturing and caring for God’s people.

So, I don’t know… I’m still reading this book with a spirit of discernment, and I’m taking it with a grain of salt. I’m thinking that I will take what I love from this book, and then just disregard the rest.

There’s a lot of it that I do agree with, mind you. Like how the authors say that our fixed pews and our stage make it seem like we church-goers are passive spectators on Sunday mornings, and the pastor is providing the “entertainment”. They talk about how –in an organic/home-church– the members would all be able to contribute to the sharing of God’s Word. Whoever feels led to share a word they’ve received could do so. And, everyone would be able to look their fellow members in the eyes easily… not having to strain around to see behind them in a pew.

I also agree that the word “church” should refer not to a building, but to all of God’s people. That’s how it’s meant in the Bible, after all. The Greek word is “ekklesia“, meaning “a gathering of believers“.

More thoughts to come as I continue reading… 😉

Beth Moore’s “Esther“: Weeks 1-4

Esther_study_BethMoore My church’s ladies’ Bible study group has been working their way through Beth Moore’s study of the book of “Esther“, subtitled “It’s Tough Being a Woman“. And, man, is it ever good! I’m learning so much!

So, I thought I’d give you a little bit of a taste of what I’ve been learning! Here are the quotes I’ve gotten from weeks 1-4, plus the introduction…

INTRODUCTION

Providence” = nothing happens by chance

– What God’s Word says is TRUE… what I’m feeling is not necessarily true. For example: If I feel that God isn’t present with me, that’s a LIE! God’s Word says that God will “never leave me or forsake me”.

I found it interesting that… Esther marries a PAGAN king and then stays (and lives) in a PAGAN nation –> this makes me think of my own life, married to an unbeliever, and having a good number of unbelieving family members.

– it’s not so much our story as it is God’s story ~ and it becomes ours as He writes us into it.

– the Bible is full of stories where it seems like everything is hopeless, but then God saves the day so that His glory can be revealed (eg. Abraham sacrificing Isaac; Moses’ entire life!; Joseph being sold into slavery; Shadrach/Meshach/Abednego being thrown into the furnace; Jesus’ death on the cross; etc).

– the most freeing thing we can ever do is to abdicate the thrown of our own miniature kingdoms

– we have a sovereign God who reigns over all and is threatened by NONE

WEEK ONE

* “You cannot amputate your history from your destiny

– don’t ever forget what God dragged you out of!

– repetition in Scripture usually means that God is making a point

– every time a Biblical character is mentioned for the first time, you can be sure there’s something important to learn

I found it interesting… that Esther grew up without her dad being present… like me!

– God sometimes allows our confusion to coax us into further study of the entire Word. Only by measuring actions by other Scripture can we clarify right and wrong in certain morally ambiguous narratives.

– …some events remain gray to us regardless of our search through other Scriptures, leaving us without definitive ways to measure them. At those times, we might assume that God means to teach us a historical or spiritual lesson more than an ethical or moral one.

– that’s why God is busy conforming us into the likeness of Christ alone. None of the rest of us can bear the burden of constancy.

– we, too, can become so steeped in our culture that we are almost indistinguishable from the world. We, too, can lose our sense of identity and forget who we are.

– we who comprise the His bride will make ourselves ready for the King through nothing less than the soul-healing pursuit of purity.

WEEK TWO

* “Insecurity is at the heart of every rivalry.”

– there’s nothing meaner than a coward

you’ll never be more prone to the enemy’s attack than when God has set you free from some sort of captivity, but you’re still on the raod to your ‘promised land’ (when you’re weary and frazzled from the journey).

meanness ALWAYS has a history –> it doesn’t just come out of nowhere

2 Corinthians 10:12 says that comparing ourselves to others is foolish … comparing leads us to feel threatened, in some way, which brings out our inner “mean girl”

– we need to learn to identify the threat, and then let God deal with it!

WEEK THREE

– sackcloth & ashes symbolized not only the Jews’ povery of spirit before the Lord, but their complete deadness without Him

– an in-depth approach to Scripture changes so much! The Holy Spirit ends up unearthing hidden treasures and shedding light on details that make a narrative spring to life in a way that casual reading can’t.

– …strength comes from muscle, and muscle develops with a workout. This is as true spiritually as physically. What we don’t use, we lose!

– when our old priorities don’t go with our new life, we either return to our old life, or adopt new priorities.

– priests of the Tabernacle would fast for 3 days to get ready to receive the Holy Spirit before entering the Holy of Holies… perhaps this is why Esther called for a 3-day fast with all of the Jews before approaching King Xerxes with her request.

WEEK FOUR

– the most frequent command, given by God, in the Bible is… DON’T BE AFRAID!!!

– you can be brave!

– we can be one decision away from completely changing our outcome

– my current choices may have an impact on my destiny

– we’ll never know the abundant life (John 10:10) until we’re free from the grip of fear

– “COURAGE” comes from the Latin word, “cor“, meaning “heart

– Christ offers us the courage of His presence… make sure you take it! (“Take heart…”, He says)

Proverbs 31:10 – “A wife of noble character, who can find?“… term “noble character” is the same as the Greek word, translated “valor“, meaning “BRAVE“. Therefore, a “brave” woman is “more precious than rubies“.

Pursuing Wellness: W2,D1

pursuingwellness (Week 2, Day 1)

Scripture Memory Verse:

“Seek first His kingdom, and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” ~ Matthew 6:33

Page 8 had a quote I liked: “No matter how strong our bodies, minds, and emotions may appear, unless we have spiritual tenacity and resolve, we will not be able to run the course that God has laid out before us.

TENACITY (or “Tenacious”) means: “not easily pulled apart; holding fast; tough; cohesive.”

RESOLVE means: “determine; decide; fixity of purpose” — also: “to break up into constituent parts“.

So, I need to have ‘fixity of purpose’ and decide to ‘not [be] easily pulled apart’ in my spiritual walk, and also in my weight loss efforts!

My Current Strength Levels (in the 4 key areas):
[rated on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being weak, and 5 being strong]

1) Physical – 3… I am moderately strong; can lift over 50 pounds; am definitely stronger than I was; am far from where I’d like to be, though!

2) Emotional – 3… also better than where I was several years ago, but definitely not yet where I’d like to be; still too fearful; don’t trust God enough.

3) Mental – 4… I’m not a basket case, and I feel that I’m fairly smart. 😉

4) Spiritual – 1… This is where I struggle the most, right now; I’ve walked too far away and need to get back into step with God — hence this study! 😉

Questions & Answers:

1) What do you learn about Jesus in Colossians 1:15-20?

He…

  • – is the visible image of the invisible God
  • – existed before all of creation
  • – supreme ruler over all
  • – everything created by God through Him, in heaven and earth
  • – everything was created for Him
  • – holds all of creation together
  • – is head of the church, which is the body
  • – was the first, and is supreme over all who rise from the dead
  • – through Him, God reconciled everything to Himself (also made peace with all by means of Christ’s blood)

2) Colossians 1:18 – Christ is the ruler of the body, the Church; He is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything He might have FIRST place.
(re-written in some of my own words).

3) What new information about Jesus did you learn that will make you more inclined to surrender your life and will to Him? Be specific.

  • He is the ruler of the “body” — if I take that to mean my PHYSICAL body, instead of just the church at large, then it makes me view exercise and eating in a new way. He is in charge, so I need to follow His lead, not my own. To follow my own is to be disrespectful.
  • Everything was created for Him — even me!

4) In Colossians 1:10-14, what does it say Christ did for you that assures you a place in God’s kingdom and qualifies you to share in the inheritance of the saints?

  • rescued us from the kingdom of darkness
  • transferred us to the kingdom of His Son
  • Christ purchased our freedom and forgave our sins

5) How is First Place 4 Health part of “growing in the knowledge of God” and “being strengthened with all power…so that you may have great endurance and patience“?

By teaching us to put Christ in His rightful place as ruler over our lives — giving Him FIRST place.

6) How are Paul’s words, in verse 10, related to this week’s Scripture Memory verse?

When we give Christ His rightful place, He’s pleased, and we will be blessed.

A Sense of Wonder

string-of-galaxies1James, at Cydonia Mensae, had some interesting ramblings on his blog, and I wanted to just respond to something he said. He wrote…

When you get up in the morning, do you feel a sense of worth? When your alarm clock goes off at 6:30am on a Monday morning, are you glad to be alive? Or do you think to yourself, “Oh great, another week at work”? When you walk out the door, do you feel a sense of awe and wonder at the world, even when there are dark clouds above you, the rain is pouring down and you’re soaking wet?

This is great! I’m one of those that just grumbles about getting up, and about having to do whatever I have to do that day. Instead, I should be thanking the Lord that I’m still breathing, and that He’s chosen to bless me with another day!

Instead of rushing out the door, and complaining about the weather being “too hot” or “too cold”, I should walk out the door and be amazed at what God has created! 😉

There are plenty of times when I do still stand in awe of God’s creation — and of God, Himself. But, more often than not, I’m grumbling about this or that aspect of life, and not living with that sense of awe & wonder.

Thanks, James, for this important reminder! 😉

Notes on Love Beyond Reason by John Ortberg

Last night I picked up “Love Beyond Reason” by John Ortberg and was reading bits and pieces of it. There were a couple of passages that really stood out to me:

p.121 – 122 ~ “Desert times are those times when I don’t get the promotion, house, success, reputation, or even health I wanted. Then I find out whether I love God for God’s sake, or simply because He gives me milk & honey. What do I do when I keep putting prayers in the coin slot but nothing comes out?

Wow. I’m going through some “desert” times right now, and it really has felt, quite often, like I’m putting “prayers in the coin slot but nothing” is coming out. I’ve ranted at God, asking why He’s putting us through this again. And, the only answer I can figure is that He’s growing our character… He’s ~ as my friend, Magnanimity, put it yesterday ~ “proving” us. Hard & painful, but ultimately still for our own good.

p.168-169 ~ “Sometimes when you are afraid you may be tempted to think you’re all alone. You may think no one sees or cares, that you are on your own. When that happens, I want you to remember…that Someone is watching over you. You may not be able to see or hear Him. But you are never out of His sight. You are never out of His care. You are the beloved of God.

Too often I tend to think God is off doing something else, or caring for someone else, so He isn’t currently caring about what I’m going through ~ I forget that He is everywhere all at once (omnipresent), and that He never leaves my side. This passage in the book just finished describing a scene from the movie, “The Bear“, in which a mountain lion tries to attack the baby bear cub… but papa bear (a giant Kodiak) is standing right behind, ready to swipe that mountain lion right out of the picture. I really liked that vision of God, standing behind me, ready to do battle for me. 😉

p.170 ~ “What would my life look like if I lived in the settled conviction that because of God’s character and competence this world is a perfectly safe place for me to be?

This is a good one for me ~ the worrier ~ to ask and ponder! If I really, truly believed that God had my back, and that this world was “perfectly safe” for me, then I would worry a LOT less! I could let my children do things without being an overprotective, paranoid mother. I could get on an airplane (or, even just go NEAR an airport) without going into a panic attack. I would be able to rest, and know that, even if something “terrible” did happen, it’s still okay, ’cause it’s something God allowed in my life for a reason — for His purposes to be played out.