Friday, April 30, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
I think these two elements, fairness and justice, are really hard for some of us to wrap our heads around. The reason for this can be summed up in one word: Perspective.
"Don't we live instead as though God is created for us, to do our bidding, to bless us, and to take care of our loved ones? Psalm 115:3 reveals, 'Our God is in heaven; he does whatever pleases him.' Yet we keep questioning Him: 'Why did you make me with this body, instead of that one?' 'Why are so many people dying of starvation?'... The answer to each of these questions is simply this: because He's God. He has more of a right to ask us why so many people are starving." p. 33
Sunday, April 18, 2010
"Each of us, to some degree, fools our friends and family about who we really are. But, it's impossible to do that with God. He knows each of us, deeply and specifically. He knows our thoughts before we think them, our actions before we commit them, whether we are lying down or sitting or walking around. He knows who we are and what we are about. We cannot escape Him, not even if we want to." p. 32
There's a lot we could chew on here, but I want to focus on the principle message. Despite the facade we sometimes construct for the people around us, God knows who we really are. THERE IS NO FOOLING HIM! Each of us falls somewhere on the spectrum, at any given time. We pretend to be someone we're not in order to make a good impression. Some project a pristine image in order to veil an imperfection, an insecurity, or in some cases, something more sinister. Have you ever changed your clothes more than once (or twice) because you were afraid of what someone else might think? Have you ever said something, or not said something, because you feared the response it would garner? Have you ever wanted the approval of someone so badly that you did something you never thought you would do? Have you ever compromised who you are, what you believe, for the acceptance of someone else...whether that someone's a parent, a spouse, a boss, a neighbor, a co-worker, a child. The list can be exhaustive...and so can the process of pretending. But what we forget is that no matter how "successful" we are at fooling other people, we can NEVER fool God.
Right now, I don't think it's important to try and conquer the "Why?" (Why do we pretend?) We'll save that battle for another day. For our purposes here, we just need to be conscious of our behavior and acknowledge the fact that God is all-knowing.
Friday, April 16, 2010
In your quiet time today, focus on the eternal characteristic of God. I know quite a few agnostics and atheists, and for them, this is one of those "sticking points," if you will. Chan's "soda can/ocean comparative" helps us better understand why some people have a hard time acknowledging God's eternal existence. Take a moment to think about what Chan said. It's imperative that we recognize this as a stumbling block for some that choose not to believe. If you personally know someone that struggles with the eternal characteristic of God, spend some time today praying for wisdom beyond their understanding.
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Monday, April 12, 2010
Last night, seven of us went to the CICRIN orphanage on Ometepe. This was the original reason for my trip. Youth Mission Challenge will be helping ADios Ministries with their fundraising efforts for CICRIN. It was an hour ferry ride to the island...did I mention there´s a live volcano on the island? This was suppose to be the highlight of my trip...and while I did find CICRIN to be fascinating, I was debilitated by my thoughts of the previous two days. I had just spent two incredible days with the most amazing children...children that have seen more than you or I can ever imagine. We were told that some of these kids won´t make it to their 16th birthday...a thought that is too painful for me to even contemplate.
The last day of camp, we set aside clothes for the kids. Each child came through the line and picked two articles of clothing. The clothes were donations from various people and charities, including The Root Cellar in Portland. A group of us helped the kids pick out clothes, making sure their needs were being met. Some of the kids were brought to tears. Several of them came to the camp with no shoes, or rancid clothes. This made several members of the team ashamed for previous complaints of having to wear the same clothes for two days in a row. (Nothing like a double dose of perspective to jolt you back into reality!)
In the book, Chan writes:
¨We are programmed to think about what we don´t have, bombarded mutiple times throughout the day with what we need to buy that will make us feel happier...This dissatisfaction transfers over to our thinking about God. We forget that we already have everything we need in Him.¨
With these kids, they found the most enjoyment from the most trivial distractions: coloring, jumping rope, taking pictures with our cameras, walking the beach, playing in the sand. They didn´t need high-tech gadgets or bright, shiney toys. They expressed the most joy when we spent quality one-on-one time with them...when we talked WITH them, not to them. There´s a distinct difference between the two, but I´ve come to realize that sometimes I confuse them.
This will be an exercise in expulsion. It goes without saying that we are a society of indulgences. We have WAY TOO MUCH. If you seriously think that you don´t live a life of extravagence, I´ll be happy to send you some pictures for comparison...I have plenty from this trip. (And, please know that I´m not placing any judgment. I´m just as guilty as the next person!) So...I want you to go through your closets and eliminate 10 items...if you´re feeling extremely rebellious, go for 20! You can even make it a family affair. Then donate the clothes to some charity...don´t take them to a consignment shop, because then it´s about you again (unless you want to take the money you make and donate it to a charity!)
If you´re up for a real challenge, you can join me. I am going home and eliminating half of the clothes in my closet. For accountability, I will post the before and after pictures on the blog. I told you this was the real deal! I want to hear about how you do on this assignment. If you´re a ¨Follower¨ post a comment to let me know. If you´re a subscriber, send me an email. I won´t ask you to do this very often...don´t worry!
His Faithful Servant-
Friday, April 9, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
“There is an epidemic of spiritual amnesia going around, and none of us is immune. No matter how many fascinating details we learn about God’s creation, no matter how many pictures we see of His galaxies, and no matter how many sunsets we watch, we still forget…When we love God because we feel we should love Him, instead of genuinely loving out of our true selves, we have forgotten who God really is. Our amnesia is flaring up again.” P. 29
I’ve been trying to come of with really good examples of this all day, but the problem is that we are all so completely and wonderfully different. What I find to be meaningful and significant, may not ring true with you, and vice versa. But, for me, when I think about genuine love, I think about the few stolen moments after giving birth to my three children. With each of them, there was this inexplicable moment where I found myself marveling at the miracle of life. I remember holding them, refusing to hand them over to their father. I must have said, “I will love you forever, and ever, and ever,” at least a dozen times on each occasion. And whenever they weren’t in my arms, my eyes were always on them and the smile never left my face.
However, I can just as easily relate to the “I-love-you-because-I-should-love-you” scenario, as well. In this case, I can’t help but think about my two eldest children…brother and sister (need I say more.) After every argument, their father and I always make them apologize and say “I love you.” Their “I love you” is void of any sentimental meaning, or heartfelt emotion. It is merely out of obligation…or fear of the consequences if they don’t. In both situations, love is said…but unlike the first example, the latter is lacking that sense of genuine, authentic love. It’s that authenticity that God deserves.
Go back to the website:
Watch the video entitled “Just Stop and Think.” It’s a little lengthy (about 15 minutes), so watch it when you have some time.
Another thing I’d like you to try the next few days: In your quiet time, try your best to marvel at God. It might seem a little weird, if you’re not used to it. If that’s the case, try this. Think about a time in your life where you have marveled at something (as I did with my children) and thank God for that splendid gift…because He was the one that gave it to you!
Monday, April 5, 2010
“What if I said, ‘Stop praying’? What if I told you to stop talking at God for a while, but instead to take a long, hard look at Him before you speak another word? Solomon warned us not to rush into God’s presence with words. That’s what fools do. And often, that’s what we do.” P. 25
So, in a nutshell, Chan’s insinuating that we are fools…and maybe he’s not that far off. Think about the last time you prayed. (Hopefully you can remember. If not, we have some extra leg work to do!) Now, think about what was said during that conversation. Did you take time to actually marvel at how awesome God is? Did you acknowledge our Creator with reverence, or just petition Him with a laundry list of requests for the day? For me, the last time I prayed was at 5:01 this morning (that’s when my alarm clock went off.) And this is LITERALLY what I said: “Thank you, Lord, for this day. Now, help me figure out how I’m going to get through it.” Not exactly up to Chan’s standards is it…and definitely not worthy of praise for God. Of course, I don’t always pray like this…but the point isn’t to critique our absolute best quiet time with God. The purpose is to ALWAYS give our best.
In order to do this, we have to really understand how awesome God is. On page 27, Chan marks out a path for us to follow: We can better understand how magnificent God is if we spend some time examining what He has created. Here are a few lines from that page:
“Did you know that a caterpillar has 228 separate and distinct muscles in its head? That’s quite a few for a bug. The average elm tree has approximately 6 million leaves on it…Did you know that when you get goose bumps, the hair in your follicles is actually helping you stay warmer by trapping body heat? Or what about the simple fact that plants take in carbon dioxide (which is harmful to us) and produce oxygen (which we need to survive)? I’m sure you knew that, but have you ever marveled at it?” p. 27
So, next time you pray…STOP! Don’t speak to God as if He’s a short order cook taking your lunchtime request. Think about who He is…what He’s done. If you need more inspiration, keep reading.
In the book, Chan asks us to check out a video chip on his web site:
On the bottom left, you will see a link for VIDEOS. Click on “the awe factor of God.” Watch this clip. It’s pretty interesting and gives you a much needed dose of perspective. So, as you spend time in prayer the next few days, think about this video and try to acknowledge God as the Creator of all things.
While you’re at the website, check out the Introduction video and Chapter 1 video. They’re really short, but you might find them helpful.
* On a side note, I leave for Nicaragua tomorrow morning. I’m going on a week long trip with Adios Ministries, which is one of the partner organizations for Youth Mission Challenge. My husband has generously agreed to post one of my blogs in a few days, which will be my third for this week. I will try to write one myself, while I’m away. But, if I’m unable to, I will jump back in on the 13th. Thanks for the prayers and encouragement. You guys (and gals) are the best!
Saturday, April 3, 2010
“The core problem isn’t the fact that we’re lukewarm, halfhearted, or stagnant Christians. The crux of it all is why we are this way, and it is because we have an inaccurate view of God. We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way. We forget that God never has an identity crisis. He knows that He’s great and deserves to be the center of our lives. Jesus came humbly as a servant, but He never begs us to give Him some small part of ourselves. He commands everything from His followers.” P. 22
There’s a lot to digest in these seven sentences, and Chan spends the next 10 chapters dissecting much, if not all, of what he says here. What I want to focus on today is the third sentence. It reads:
“We see Him as a benevolent Being who is satisfied when people manage to fit Him into their lives in some small way.”
Okay…be honest…a virtual show of hands, of those that have done just this. I should probably raise both of my hands because I felt an extra dose of conviction with this one. See if this sounds somewhat familiar:
‘The alarm clock wakes you up 15 minutes early so you can have your 'quiet time,' except you hit the snooze button because you didn’t sleep so well that night. Not a problem, you’ll fit in the quiet time between the gym and the kids getting up. Great plan…except you didn’t check it with the kiddos. They decided to get up early. NOT A PROBLEM. You can definitely get the quiet time in after lunch. You actually crack open the Bible and start to read, but then the phone rings. You decide to let the answering machine get it, but it’s an important call. Okay, quiet time….definitely after dinner. Do you see the pattern? Next thing you know, it’s 10:00 and your quiet time, if you even start it, ends by minute four because you fall asleep.”
Sound familiar? This is pretty much an everyday occurrence for me…and it’s COMPLETELY embarrassing to admit. But here’s the thing...I disagree with Chan's reasoning. I don’t think we see God as being satisfied when we manage to fit Him into our lives. Honestly, that’s giving us too much credit...blaming our poor behavior on ignorance. Every Christian I know would readily admit that God is worth so much more...and expects so much more. So why aren’t we giving Him more? I'm sure there are as many reasons as there are people on the planet…but today, we’re just going to focus on one!
For those of you that are interested in how my last homework assignment went, check out the comment section for that day!
Thursday, April 1, 2010
“We need to stop giving people excuses not to believe in God. You’ve probably heard the expression ‘I believe in God, just not organized religion.’ I don’t think people would say that if the church truly lived like we are called to live. The expression would change to ‘I can’t deny what the church does, but I don’t believe in their God.’ At least then they’d address their rejection of God rather than use the church as a scapegoat.”
When I asked a friend for his take on the comment, he took a rather wide-angled perspective. In his opinion, the negative reference to “organized religion” resulted from a myriad of circumstances including, but not limited to, the current sexual abuse allegations dogging the Catholic Church and the numerous evangelical ministers that have wandered astray. I, too, agree that these things have done nothing to help the reputation of “organized religion;” however, I contend that such blame is also a way for us to divert responsibility. My approach to Chan’s statement is less forgiving. I believe organized religion speaks directly to the church…which is us!
“For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body.”
We are members of His body…each one of us is part of the church. And as a part of the church, we must hold ourselves to that high standard…WE MUST LIVE OUR LIVES AS WE ARE CALLED TO LIVE. So, are you? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not asking for perfection. None of us are perfect. We all fall short and are destined to make mistakes, but God’s grace covers those imperfections. This is about doing what we need to be doing…but aren’t. It’s about putting an end to the things we should not be doing…but don’t.
I’m sure you see where this is going! I want you to think about how your behavior may enable someone to use the church as an excuse for rejecting God. Ouch! If you’re anything like me, you might come up with a few examples. (Some examples could be prefacing gossip with "I really shouldn't say this, BUT..." or losing your temper with a friend or co-worker...or better yet, your spouse, or child). Take one of your “issues” and spend the next 48 hours working on it. Warning: you might be tempted to ‘right all your wrongs’…DON’T! You see, I have this theory. It’s the same rationale for why the New Year's resolution for losing weight never works. We become overly ambitious, so caught up in wanting to change, that we attack everything at once...exercising everyday, changing our eating habits, depriving ourselves the simpliest of pleasures. We begin to feel overwhelmed and ultimately defeated because making a lifestyle change is hard, making several all at once is incredibly difficult. We live in a society that wants instant success…but we’re talking about eternal success, if you will. Be patient. One step at a time.
For accountability’s sake, I’ll share my issue of choice. I am an encourager. I guess it’s one of my gifts. However, I seem to lack this gift with my own daughter. For the next 48 hours, I’m committing myself to extending that encouragement to my daughter. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a tough parent. I expect a lot from my children and sometimes I forget that my job is to lovingly mold them. Jesus was firm, but he was also gentle. That will be my focus and commitment for the next 48 hours. I’ll let you know how I do…
His Faithful Servant~