Are you a Fan… Or a Follower?

Not a Fan promo from City on a Hill Productions on Vimeo.

My church is watching this 6-video series over the next three weeks (first two were shown this past Friday night). And, it’s good. Hard to watch… but good. And, I have a feeling it’s only going to get better.

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Weary

Sometimes I get so tired of being good. I want to drink until I’m drunk, and dance the way I shouldn’t. I want to go out and have a good time. Honestly? I miss my “party” days… my rebellious-teenager phase. It was so much fun to go out to the bar every weekend, and drink and flirt. It was fun being popular and having my phone ring off the hook…

((sigh))

But, then God gently reminds me…

Do not get tired of doing good.
For at just the right time,
you will reap a harvest of blessing
if you don’t give up
.”
~ Galatians 6:9

And…

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed
the passions and desires of their sinful nature
to His cross and crucified them there.”
~ Galatians 5:24

Daily. I have to daily lay down this urge that creeps up on me. When I feel really tired of being a “good Christian girl”, I have to remember that it really is worth it, in the long run. These temporary, earthly pleasures are nothing compared to what God’s got in store for me… if only I won’t give up. If only I’ll hold fast to what I believe in.

Rebel with a Cause

Cultural Christianity. This is a term I’ve read on a blog (or two) recently. And, it seems to perfectly describe what I’m trying to get away from.

I read a quote on John Piper’s blog, the other day, that said:

“I was afraid to admit my struggles for fear I’d be given yet another suggestion of something to try, advice that means well, but reinforces that my circumstances are unacceptable, and I need to do whatever I can to change them.”

Much as Christians often mean well with their advice, a lot of times it comes off — to me, anyway — as a judgment on my circumstances. My life has never been “acceptable” in the cultural Christian circles. I don’t fit. I’m a square peg, and they’re a round hole.

I’ve always been one to question, to think outside of the box. And, they don’t like that. They want all to conform to the standard and if you don’t, you’re seen as a “black sheep”, or as someone who is backslidden in their faith. You must not love God because you’re not obeying… us.

I honestly (now) believe that the reason I’ve had so much trouble with churches is because God has allowed me to step back and see the truth… that the church is not what He intended (intends) it to be; that it’s in need of a revolution.

I like the Harris brothers’ term for it: Rebelution.

If my unwillingness to conform to “cultural Christianity” makes me a rebel, so be it! This — if you ask me — isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This type of Christian rebel isn’t sin. It’s taking a stand FOR Jesus, for the Way that Jesus, Himself, taught us to live.

I was listening to one of Russell Moore’s “The Cross & the Jukebox” podcasts, last week, and it talked about individualism vs. community. While I know that Christianity is all about community — God made us for relationship, after all — I also kind of like the idea of individuality. Not in the sense of isolating yourself from others, or going it alone… that would be contrary to what the Bible calls us to, and therefore a sin. But, individuality in the sense that we are not all conforming and losing our God-given uniqueness.

Sometimes I think the church is trying to form a collective. “You must do this + this + this, or else you aren’t a Christian“.

I don’t want to be a robot. I don’t want to be like everybody else. I want to be ME, with all of my quirks and flaws.

I want to help others to see the truth of how God intended Christianity to really be. Not that I know it all, mind you. I’ve only had a tiny glimpse, so far. But it’s enough to have lit a spark in me… enough to have made me want to chase after this with all I’ve got…

…even if it means I risk being ostracized for being different; even if I’m labelled a “rebel”. 😉

Basics of Belief

The basics of my belief are best summed up in the lyrics of Petra’s song, “CREED“:

I believe in God the Father – maker of heaven and earth
And in Jesus Christ His only Son
I believe in the virgin birth
I believe in the Man of Sorrows bruised for iniquities
I believe in the Lamb who was
crucified and hung between two thieves

I believe in the resurrection on the
third and glorious day
And I believe in the empty tomb and the
stone that the angel rolled away
He descended and set the captives free
And now He sits at God’s right hand
and prepares a place for me

(Chorus)
This is my creed – the witness I have heard
The faith that has endured
This truth is assured
Through the darkest ages past
Though persecuted, it will last
And I will hold steadfast to this creed

I believe He sent His Spirit to comfort and to reveal
To lead us into the truth and light, to baptize and to seal
I believe that He will come back the way He went away
And receive us all unto Himself, but no man knows the day

I believe He is the Judge of all men, small and great
The resurrected souls of men receive from Him their fate
Some to death and some to life, some to their reward
Some to sing eternal praise forever to our Lord

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.

Questioning…

While I’m getting a lot out of this “Experiencing God” Bible study (Henry & Richard Blackaby, Claude King), I’m also questioning parts. Here is some of what’s bugging me…

p. 39 ~ “Open and closed doors do not always indicate God’s guidance. Check to see that prayer, the Scriptures, and circumstances agree on the direction you sense God leading you.

This is both good and bad… I’m not sure I agree about the open/closed doors thing, though. I think God closes doors (opportunities) when it isn’t yet the right time — or, perhaps it isn’t the right opportunity. And, I believe He opens the doors when it is the right time/opportunity. But, I also definitely believe that you still need to check yourself against the Scriptures & such — and be in prayer, asking God for His clear direction — too. If you have the relationship with God, in the first place, I think it’ll be pretty clear from the above-mentioned sources whether/not God is leading you in a particular direction… opening/closing the door for that opportunity.

This one (below) really gets me ruffled…

p.45 ~ “In Scripture, God is not often seen coming and speaking to people just for conversation’s sake… When God speaks to you through the Bible, prayer, circumstances, the church, or another way, He has a purpose in mind for your life… He speaks to His servant when He is ready to move. Otherwise, He wouldn’t speak to you.”

Oh, really? Well, what about Adam & Eve? God walked with them in the Garden… and I’m sure they had plenty of conversation, just for the sake of their relationship! And, speaking of which, if God doesn’t talk to us at any time other than when He wants to do something, how on earth are we supposed to have a “relationship” with Him? Isn’t a relationship about speaking back & forth? about two people getting to know each other (obviously, in this case, God already knows us fully, but, humor me here…). 😉 I just don’t know that I believe what the authors are saying here. But, I’ve consulted with someone who I know happens to be an “expert” in this, and am awaiting a response. I’ll make note of it here, later.

p. 49 ~ “If what you’re thinking makes sense to you, it’s probably not from God.”

I can see how this could be true in some instances. For example, yes, God is oftentimes unpredictable. He often asks us to do things that don’t necessarily make sense to us. That doesn’t necessarily mean, though, that every time something actually does make sense to us, that it isn’t from God. God is not a God of chaos. He’s a God of order.

But, anything that goes against what the Bible says won’t be something from God. God will never ask us to do something that’s contrary to His Word.

** If you have any thoughts on any of this, please share! I’m still questioning, and would love to hear others’ opinions. Thanks in advance! **

Discontented

 For a while now ~ years, probably ~ I’ve had a dislike of “religion”, even though I’ve called myself a “Christian” for most of my life, and I was brought up going to church every Sunday.

But, I really have never liked going to church. And, in all honesty, I don’t like hanging around with other Christians.* Too often they are too preachy, or too judgemental, or too “holier-than-thou”. And I just can’t stand it!

For example, I recently posted to my Facebook wall that I was reading L. J. Smith’s series, “The Vampire Diaries“. And a good –Christian– friend of mine left a comment asking why I’d read “such trash”. I laughed it off and said, “Because I like reading vampire books!” Then, a few days later, I went to Bible study, and another (Christian) friend says, “I’ve been seeing your Facebook posts, lately, about the books you’re reading, and the Christina Aguilera music videos ~ why do you choose to fill your head with such garbage? I just don’t get it.” This woman said all of this with such a disgusted tone of voice, too. 😕

Well, I have a question of my own: Who gave ya’ll the right to approve/disapprove of the media I consume? I mean, if you want to confront a Christian sister in love, and remind her that maybe her choices aren’t the most edifying, there are better ways to go about it. But, manipulation and shame aren’t it.

I’m tired of Christianity’s legalism and falseness. I love my LORD, and feel that He and I have a decent relationship. It’s not what I’d like it to be, certainly, but it’s at least a relationship that’s in process.

I want a strong, visible faith. But, I don’t want to be the type of Christian I’ve seen all of my life. I don’t want to be pious. I don’t want to follow a set of rules, or have a mental checklist that tells me whether/not I’m being a “good Christian” and walking closely with God (because I’m reading my Bible, going to church, and praying regularly, etc). I don’t want people to run for the hills when they see me coming — or, at the very least, roll their eyes — for fear that I’m goign to give them an earful about my faith.

I guess I kind of just like the faith that I already have. It’s a quiet faith, where I will share with others if God prompts me to, or if I feel the circumstances call for it; where I don’t go to church on Sundays, but have made attendance at my weekly Bible study a priority (it’s my “church”); where –every now & then– people will hear me talk about my faith and realize that maybe I have a closer relationship with God than they thought (because they were too busy assuming –based on my media choices, and my lack of church attendance– that I have a “weak” faith).

I want to live The Way of Jesus (as seen in the New Testament). I want to have a deep, abiding love relationship with my LORD that isn’t overbearing, but that definitely teases others into wanting the same for themselves. I want people to say, “There’s something different about her,” and then seek to find out what that is. But, the “difference” I want them to discover is an authentic, living, breathing faith in a loving heavenly Father who calls them (and me) to Himself.

———————————-
* Note: This does not include my blogging friends. I love reading Christian blogs, but that’s probably because I can choose the ones whose “tone” I like. 😉

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. 😉

Seeing God At Work… a short story

Today, I want to tell you a short (but true!) story…

A while back, I was stuck in a crummy, part-time, minimum-wage job. It would have been great, except that my managers were micro-managing and not encouraging teamwork (they encouraged everyone to compete against one another, instead), they spitefully gave me very few hours (despite knowing that I was trying to provide for my family of 4), and the job itself got just plain boring & repetitive. So, I prayed for a way out. And, I prayed & I prayed & I prayed… for months!

All the while, I was applying for other jobs.

One day, as I was working at my crummy job, a woman showed up who I knew ran a healthcare place in my hometown. I had applied to work for her several years before, so I mentioned that to her then — said I recognized her face from the newspaper. She asked if I was still looking for work, and I said yes. So, she said that I should bring her my resumé, and — even though she currently had someone filling the receptionist position– she would keep my resumé on file because she suspected that her receptionist would be leaving soon. So, the very next day, I dropped it off at her office, and then began to wait.

Well, I didn’t hear back from her, and it was really disheartening. But, I kept applying to other places, and I kept praying for God to send me something.

Six months later, I had an interview with one of the jobs I’d applied for. And, I really thought I was going to get it, too! But, then they called to say they had chosen someone more qualified. And, I was crushed…

…until I talked to my neighbor, whose mother frequently visits the aforementioned healthcare facility. Apparently the receptionist had now left, and the owner was without someone to fill the spot. So my neighbor suggested that I go and reapply. Which I did.

Now, here’s where it gets cool… 😉

About a week after reapplying to the healthcare facility, I get an email from the owner saying that, while she was choosing to go without a receptionist for a while, she also knew of someone else –in town– that was hiring. She passed along this other woman’s e-mail address, and wished me luck. And, I was thoroughly touched! She didn’t have to go out of her way to do this for me, and yet, she did.

Right away, I contacted this other woman, via email, forwarding on my resumé, and saying I was very interested in the job. Well, she wrote me back the next morning to say that the job wasn’t for a receptionist position, but to be a personal assistant in this office of her’s. She said, though, that if I was still interested, I could call her to set up an interview. And, I did.

Finally, there was hope!

Sure enough, the very next day I had an interview at this office. And, I felt that it went really well. I could already see God’s hand all over this whole story, but tried to contain myself, as I didn’t want to put too much hope into it, for fear it wouldn’t work out.

But, a week later, I got a call to go in for a second interview at this same office… and that’s where they told me that they wanted to hire me! 😀 So, I accepted the offer, and started the following week! Shortly thereafter, I quit my other (crummy) job.

Last, but not least, the new job required me to get a car so that I could drive around running errands for my boss — and get back and forth to work, of course. Hubby & I have had only one vehicle for the whole 12 years we’ve been married, so the thought of having my own wheels was thrilling. And, sure enough, not long after, we found me a cheap –but awesome!– used vehicle.

So, I am praising God! He sent that healthcare woman in to my workplace… He had all of the other places not work out, all the way up until this other (office) job was available… and then He provided both the job, and a car! Whoohoo!

The new job is certainly not boring! LOL. It’s going to take some time to learn all of the details, but I’m enjoying the fact that I am now working in an office, instead of retail. It’s such a breath of fresh air! And, I love that I now have my weekends and evenings free, too! With our current family situation, it suits us much better, and makes things a lot easier.

The moral of the story: Always watch for God’s hand at work in your life! He’s always there, taking care of the details, even when it seems that all hope is lost. 😉

100 Simple Ways to Make the Days Count

This was posted here, originally: http://makethedayscount.com/2008/11/17/100-simple-ways-to-make-the-days-count/

I am reposting it here, on my own blog, because I think it’s a much-needed reminder! Enjoy! 😉

100 Simple Ways to Make the Days Count
Article by Christian Nanz and Make The Days Count Contributor Judy Mosley

One of the things I am still learning is how to make my days better by allowing myself to do things that bring pleasure to others and to me.  I am also learning how simple little things like making my bed can help me feel productive all day long!  They don’t need to be major undertakings.  It’s interesting that small things bring large doses of happiness or satisfaction.

For example, when I get up on the morning, I like to take my dog for a walk around the neighborhood. He loves going for a walk (and he expects it!), and yet I believe I appreciate the walk a much as he does!  It is my time to relax, be thankful for another day and enjoy.

Of course this is not an exhaustive list.  There are many things that are simple, inexpensive, and easy to do that can add to your day in an incredibly satisfying way.  Perhaps this will spark you to try some of the things on our list or to add to it with ideas of your own.

1. Smile

2. Take a walk

3. Make your bed

4. Give someone a flower

5. Send someone a card – just because

6. Write a hand-written note to someone you love

7. Color a page in a coloring book

8. Journal about your day

9. Make a funny face

10. Sing in the car – with passion

11. Tell someone you appreciate them

12. Walk away from an impulse buy

13. Hug a child

14. Before bed, write down the top 5 things that you must do the next day

15. Get rid of three things that you no longer use; donate them to charity 

16. Save your leftovers and take them to work instead of buying lunch

17. Take 5 minutes and pray about your day

18. Eat one of your favorite foods – slowly

19. Get up 30 minutes early

20. Forgive someone

21. Give yourself grace

22. Forgive yourself

23. Focus on one task – refuse to multi-task

24. Cut up a credit card

25. Learn a new word and use it at least five times

26. Before bed, pick up loose clutter

27. Trust your instincts

28. When you are wrong, admit it.

29. Tell the truth

30. Give something away – no strings attached.

31. Keep a pen with you at all times

32. Give someone a kiss on the cheek

33. Pet an animal

34. Start reading a book you can’t put down

35. Jump in a puddle

36. Let go of one lie you have believed about yourself

37. Finish one small project before bed

38. Make a list of 5 things that you are grateful for

39. Be kind to the cashier, no matter how they treat you

40. Take deep breaths

41. Stretch when you wake up

42. Go to the library

43. Set one only time to check your email daily; focus on everything else

44. Say “no” to that one more thing

45. Play with your kids

46. Look your spouse in the eyes

47. Learn a new fact and share it

48. Try a new recipe

49. Sit quietly for 5 minutes

50. Wiggle your ears

51. List 5 good things you want to do in the next year

52. Try to do a headstand

53. Laugh really hard with somebody

54. Avoid gossip

55. Turn off the TV

56. Cry it out

57. Refuse to freak out

58. Allow yourself to be happy

59. Look for the good in the moment

60. Be thankful for what you have already received

61. Plan an outing to look forward to within the next week

62. Eat your veggies

63. Tell someone you admire them and why

64. Give a stranger a compliment

65. Pray for someone who has hurt you

66. Put 10 dollars in savings

67. Look at the stars

68. Call your parents and tell them you love them

69. Listen when your teen speaks

70. Let someone go ahead of you in line

71. Wear your favorite outfit

72. Write down what you want to remember later

73. Listen to NPR

74. Turn off the nightly news

75. Buy a plant and keep it in your work space

76. Remember that what’s on the surface is not always the whole story

77. Eat dark chocolate

78. Look at a world map

79. Make yourself a homemade breakfast

80. Shop for your next outfit at Goodwill

81. Keep your head when you get angry

82. Release what you cannot control

83. Don’t take everything personally

84. Laugh at yourself

85. Vent to someone that get’s it

86. Exercise for at least 10 minutes

87. Let your no be no and your yes be yes

88. Touch your children

89. Let go of unhealthy relationships

90. Describe on paper an adventure you would like to go on

91. Eat by candle light

92. Eat dessert first

93. Dance to your favorite song

94. Unplug what you’re not using

95. Trade books with someone with different tastes than yours

96. Do one load of laundry a day

97. Go to bed one hour earlier

98. Find a new habit to replace an old-unhealthy one

99. Listen to an audio book in the car

100. Say a prayer for someone else