Friday, May 31, 2013

Getting Off My Rump

Sometimes I am frustrated by the fact that the Bible doesn't give us black and white answers for every situation.  Even in the spiritual disciplines, the Word can be vague.  We are commanded to give, but how much? The Bible emphasizes the importance of prayer, but when is the best time?  For me the most maddeningly hazy area of Scripture is parenting.  I would love to open my Bible and find a verse that says, "When thy 2 year old child shall throw herself on the floor, thou shalt ignore her.  Verily, if she continues to wail and gnash her teeth, the rod is what thou shalt use." 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Wasted Day

Wal-Mart repintado
Have you ever had to spend a whole day taking care of the mundane matters of this world and then felt guilty about it?  I have.  Paydays are especially bad.  I have to drive 20 minutes to the bank to get our cash, then go to one or two or three stores to help stock the house back up with milk, toilet paper, yogurt, and coffee.  With two or three young children in tow, these errands take hours.  When I go to bed at night, sometimes I feel like I've wasted a whole day.  I apologize to God for not being more holy, and try to do better the next day.  

I've recently read a book that reminded me that a day is only wasted if I'm not following hard after my Savior, and that I can pursue him in every activity of my life.  I downloaded A.W. Tozer's The Pursuit of God because it was free, but I'm glad I read it.  It's a dense book, and I didn't agree with everything he says, but the final chapter, "The Sacrament of Living" really spoke to me.

Tozer speaks of the tendency that Christians have to divide our lives into two areas, the sacred and the secular.  We feel satisfied with ourselves when we are doing our spiritual disciplines like praying, attending church, and reading our bible.  When the ordinary activities of life like grocery shopping, working, and household chores intrude, we feel uneasy, as if we should apologize to God for not doing sacred activities 24 hours a day.  Tozer says this is a cause of Christians missing out on the peace God has promised to us. 

He also notes that the "sacred-secular antithesis" has no basis in Scripture, and he uses Jesus as a model.  Christ, he says, was completely pleasing to God in everything that he did, and yet he lived as a human. The gospels take no pains to hide Jesus's humanity.  He got hungry and tired, and he was never uneasy when doing human activities like eating or sleeping.  He even worked as a builder before he began his public ministry.  

If Jesus was able to live as a human with such grace and confidence, how can we do the same?  Tozer gives us the answer.  We must "lift every act up into a living kingdom and turn the whole life into a sacrament."  Say what?  Thankfully, our author gives us a more specific answer: We have to practice living to the glory of God with every act we do.  He says we must offer all our acts to God and truly believe that he accepts them. We must meditate on this idea as we go throughout the day, and pray about it often. The "sacraments" like communion and baptism, are not the only ways to please God.  As we go through our day to day activities, we can send up short prayers to Him, dedicating the work to God and reminding ourselves that we are doing all to his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).   

The way I see it, this will have three results.  The first is that it will help to steer me clear of sinful activities that cannot be pleasing to God.  If I'm thinking about following him all day, praying and dedicating all my endeavors to him, then I will be less likely to begin gossiping or reading impure books or yelling at my children.  

Second, if I am sending up these "thought-prayers," as he calls them, all day long, then I actually am involving myself in the spiritual discipline of prayer!  I can pray whilst in the middle of doing housework.  Even if I am helping my daughter with her homework, we can send a short prayer up to the Father, dedicating the work to him.  It isn't so much what I am doing, but how I am doing it that makes the difference.  "It is not what a man does that determines whether his work is sacred or secular, it is why he does it.  The motive is everything.  Let a man sanctify the Lord God in his heart and he can thereafter do no common act."  Sanctifying God in my heart with every action can only bring me closer to Him. 

Finally, I can let go of the burden of guilt.  If Jesus had to sleep, then I don't have to feel guilty about going to bed early when I'm tired.  Jesus had a job, I don't have to feel shame at spending hours of my day doing my job as long as I dedicate it to him.  

The only way I can have this unified kind of life, though, is if I desire to follow God with my whole heart and actively pursue him.  If I go through my entire day of errands without once thinking about God, then perhaps my day really is wasted.  However, if I pray before I head out the door, or as I'm driving to the bank, thanking God for his provision, and letting him know that I am dedicating my day to Him, then even a simple Wal-Mart run can be a spiritual activity.  

If I start to doubt, I need only remind myself that the disciples went into town to buy food (John 4:8), Paul was a tentmaker (Acts 18:3), and Jesus used ordinary activities to teach some of his most powerful parables (Luke 15:1-10).

Is today a day filled with ordinary activities for you?  Transform them.  Before you wash another dish, say a prayer dedicating your work to the Lord.  Going to work?  Remind yourself that you are working for someone far greater than an earthly employee. Do all your ordinary jobs to God's glory, and see if you don't feel less fractured.

Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Shepherding the Flock

<< Return
Phirography the shepherd's love
Normally when we consider what the Bible has to say about shepherds or elders we think of the New Testament.  Ezekiel is certainly not the first book that comes to most of our minds.  I was very surprised when reading Ezekiel chapter 34. Although this section of scripture is a prophecy against the shepherds of Israel, it not only reminded me of what a serious and difficult job today's elders have, but also of their humanity and the Good Shepherd's perfection.  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Kneeling at the Throne

Autumn-country-church - Virginia - ForestWander
When I was a kid we went to church.  Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night - we were there.  Every gospel meeting, ladies day, VBS and workday, our van was in the parking lot.   I can't recall my sister or I ever questioning the habit.  There was no need to ask - we went to church. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

More Blessed

Of all the spiritual disciplines, I think giving is the one we like to hear about least.   A preacher can do all the sermons he wants about Bible study, fellowship, and prayer, and we all nod our heads.  However, if he dares to get up and do a lesson on giving, it seems most of his audience will be wondering what building project is in the works or perhaps which stingy person he is aiming to reach.  I have been guilty of this very thing.  When my preacher starts talking about giving, I look at the wall where our budget and weekly contribution numbers are posted.  We must have fallen behind, right? What I've forgotten is that just like the other spiritual disciplines, giving is for my benefit and growth.  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Light of Eidon

Last week, Helene let you all in on our dirty little secret.  We love fantasy and sci-fi novels.  Can't get enough of them.  Aliens, swords, spaceships, dragons, we devour them like small boys inhale M&Ms.  I have to admit, though, that I am often a less thoughtful reader than Helene.  I usually just read for the story.  How does the good guy end up winning?  Does the boy get his girl?  Who is going to die and make me cry like a baby?  Typically, I pass right over the deeper themes the first time I read any novel. In The Light of Eidon, however, I found a different kind of read.  This book kept me turning pages to see the next step in a journey of faith.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Mind the Gap

"Mind the gap".  This phrase first impressed me while riding the London subway on my first ever overseas-trip.  Mostly it stuck in my mind because I wondered why they didn't just say "watch your step."  Thanks to my recent reading of Ezekiel, when I ride the subway now and see a similar sign, I am struck by an entirely different thought.  

In the book of Ezekiel, the Lord warns of the impending judgment on Jerusalem.  In Chapter 22, He talks of all that He has against the city.  In verses 30 and 31, God says, "I searched for a man among them who would build up the wall and stand in the gap before Me for the land, so that I would not destroy it; but I found no one.  Thus I have poured out My indignation on them."  This verse broke my heart thinking of all the people around me that are falling into the gap. 

Just like in Ezekiel's day, we are told in Matthew 25 that Jesus will return one day to judge the world.  In Mark 16:15, Jesus commands His followers to, "Go into all the World and preach the gospel to all creation."  In essence, He is calling each one of us to stand in the gap between Him and the world.  He doesn't want any to perish (2 Peter 3:9), but so many don't know him.  If we refuse to "mind the gap" then they will suffer.  

Considering Helene's post yesterday, I won't ask you what you have done lately to "stand in the gap," but I ask you to think about it.  Perhaps as we seek this week to do good in secret we can all reach out to a neighbor and try and pull them from the gap. 
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Pictogramm silence
Have you ever known someone who was addicted to approval?  I don't mean a person who desired the honest praise of those who should give it, wives who long to be beautiful in their husbands' eyes or sons who want to hear their dad cheer for them from the sidelines.  I mean the grasping, mewling desire for everyone around you to think you are wonderful.  The desire to hide the bad and display the good taken to its most obnoxious extreme.   I am talking about butt-kissers, people-pleasers; I am talking about myself and probably you too.

Friday, May 17, 2013

I Have Sinned

Angry tiger
In the past year, a remarkable change has happened in my life.  I've told you about my short temper. Outbursts of anger, so condemned in Scripture (Galatians 5:21), used to be a daily part of my life.  For the most part, I didn't think too much about it.  After all, it was other people's actions that were making me angry. The guy who cut me off in traffic, the child who would not obey, the husband who left socks on the floor again were really the ones to blame.  The result was that the anger persisted, poisoning my relationships and stunting my growth in Christ.  I needed to confess.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Book-worm's Butt

Book-worm's butt.  I have had a bad case of it in the past.  That would be where you sit on the couch reading your book so long that your hiney grows to match the contours of the sofa!  Melissa says that when she's got a great book and she doesn't put it down in time, she gets a headache instead.  But book-worm's head just doesn't have the same ring to it!

Both of us are readers and we share similar taste.  We might read anything not nailed down but we have a particular love for fantasy.  Melissa likes the epic kind, questers and princesses, swords and sorcery.  I love space opera, wide worlds peopled with magical creatures, and re-envisioned fairy tales.  

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Freedom of Choice

Entrance of the Freedom Theatre in Jenin 006 - Aug 2011
Freedom.  For Americans, this is a term often taken for granted.  For Christians, it has much deeper meaning.  Jeremiah discusses one type of freedom that God gives in a very clear and concise way.  He talks about the choice to either have freedom from the bondage of sin or freedom to sin and face the consequences set forth in God's word.  

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Things We Didn't Talk About

Hungarian Telephone Factory 1937 Budapest
Yesterday one of my sister's skyped me. My husband and I were very involved in the church where she worshiped right after she became a Christian.  We had many a late night phone conversation, many an evening Bible study, many a dinner together.  She came and cooked for us when our "baby" was still a baby. She's an old friend.

Friday, May 10, 2013

I Still Read My Bible Every Day

Bible Johns Gospel 3 16Read your Bible every day and grow, grow, grow!Read your Bible every day and grow, grow, grow!Grow, grow, grow!Grow, grow, grow!Read your Bible every day and grow, grow, grow!

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Life You've Always Wanted

After Melissa and I decided that we'd write a series on spiritual disciplines, I began to search my Bible.  Immediately I saw a glaring problem: the term isn't mentioned at all!  I couldn't find a list of "spiritual disciplines", no rules for when and how to practice them. Then I remembered years ago I had read John Ortberg's The Life you've Always Wanted: Spiritual Disciplines for ordinary people. When I reread it, I remembered why it was my favorite. Rather than laying out a long list of things we should feel guilty for not doing, Ortberg is practical and committed to the ideas of freedom and joy. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rising Again

Dunny getting up
While working my way through Proverbs, I was often encouraged and challenged.  I want to share with you one last note of encouragement from this book.  Proverbs 24:16 says, "For the righteous man falls seven times, and rises again, but the wicked stumble in time of calamity."  In our Christian walk, we will have times of trials, difficulties, and failures.  If we want to be true women of God, we have to pick ourselves up and keep going.  In the end we want to be able to echo Paul's words: "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith" (2 Timothy 4:7).  This is part of the reason for Melissa and Helene's focus on the Spiritual disciplines this month.  When we make prayer, meditation, reading, and the others consistently part of our life, it is easier to rise again when we fall.  Also hopefully those falls will be fewer and farther in between when we are staying close to the Father, which is really what the spiritual disciplines are all about.  Please share below what helps you to rise again when you fall. 
Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE(R), Copyright(c) 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Meditate Like Yoda You Should Not

When you think of meditation what comes to mind?  An emaciated guru chanting on top of a mountain in a filthy loincloth?   I'm imagining an Indian version of Yoda. I'm weird, right?

Seriously, the biggest problem Christians face when discussing meditation is that we immediately become confused by our new age or eastern idolatrous view of it.  

Friday, May 3, 2013

Whisper a Prayer

Ethiopia Innocent Prayers of a Young Child (3405971322)
I tend to be a methodical, logical person.  Read the Bible every day?  Easy!  Just set my Kindle by the bed and read my daily selection when the alarm goes off in the morning.  I may not learn a thing, but I can check it off my list.  Prayer?  Prayer is something else entirely.  I've tried to be a methodical pray-er.  It doesn't work.  I can read my Bible on autopilot.  I don't always get a lot out of it, but I can do it.  I can't pray on autopilot.  It is too personal, too filled with relationship.  In the past, I've used the model of the Lord's prayer as a kind of checklist. "Hallowed be thy name"... praise... tell God how awesome He is.  "Give us this day"...supplication...ask for stuff.  "Forgive us our sins"...confession... tell God how bad I've been.  Amen! I'm done; moving on to something else. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Spiritual Disciplines

Living abroad has given me a different view of our freedom in Christ.  I can't help but think that part of the reason that God gave us such immense freedom (inside of his commands and principles) is that he knew that different cultures, languages, times and people would have such powerfully different expressions of his truth.