Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Having Our Twinkie and Eating It Too!

Is there anyone in your life you have a hard time loving? There are definitely a few people in my life that I have hard time tolerating, let alone loving. But that's where God comes in:

"The fact is, I need God to help me love God. And if I need His help to love Him, a perfect being, I definitely need His help to love other, fault-filled humans. Something mysterious, even supernatural must happen in order for genuine love for God to grow in our hearts. The Holy Spirit has to move in our lives." p. 104

I would say that I readily agree with this sentiment. However, the direction in which Chan takes us with this idea IS NOT something I agree with... at least not completely. Or better yet, I just think he totally misses a HUGE stumbling block for so many of us. First, let's start with what he has to say:
"It is a remarkable cycle: Our prayers for more love result in love, which naturally causes us to pray more, which results in more love... Imagine going for a run while eating a box of Twinkies. Besides being self-defeating and side-ache inducing, it would also be near impossible- you would have to stop running in order to eat the Twinkies.
"In the same way, you have to stop loving and pursuing Christ in order to sin. When you stop pursuing love, running toward Christ, you do not have opportunity to wonder, Am I doing this right? or Did I serve enough this week? When you are running toward Christ, you are freed up to serve, love and give thanks without guilt, worry or fear. As long as you are running, you are safe." p. 104

Now, I whole-heartedly agree with the latter part of this excerpt, as it pertains to running toward Christ. My issue is with the first paragraph and the Twinkies... and yes, I have an issue with Twinkies in general (and you should, too! If not, try leaving an unwrapped Twinkie out to see how long it takes to grow mold... then get back to me in a few years!) But, seriously, the point I want to make here is significant, I think. Chan's "comparison" is based on the assumption that you can't eat a Twinkie and run at the same time... but I am here to say that you can! Of course, there is humor in this analogy... but there is also truth.... and a point. Just hang with me for a second.

Chan has admitted that he isn't an avid runner. So, I wouldn't expect him to understand that it is COMPLETELY possible to eat a Twinkie and run at the same time! Let me explain: I'm a runner... not an elite runner (in my dreams, maybe?) But I run. I love to run. One of the things I love to do most is train for endurance races... marathons and half-marathons. And while each runner is different, all endurance runners will agree that fueling your body is extremely important... especially those last 5-6 miles of a marathon. For me, that fuel is SUGAR. And while I would admittedly choose a Gu pack or PowerBar over a Twinkie... if all I had was a Twinkie, I would take it. But here's the important point: I wouldn't gobble that Twinkie down like Thanksgiving dinner... I would take small bites, every so often, over the course of 2 or 3 miles, slowly allowing the sugar to release into my body, giving just enough energy to sustain me through the race. Of course, if I crammed the whole thing down my throat in one bite, I would undoubtedly suffer from acute side cramps or just simply throw up...sorry for the visual!

So, to bring this all back to my main point: I agree that the Twinkie represents the sin in our lives. And I also agree that we are not capable of fully loving God when sin is taking up residence in our lives. HOWEVER, the problem with Chan's analogy is that it's black and white... while many of us live in the land of gray. Many of us nibble on the "Twinkie" throughout our day... throughout our lives. We go to church. We serve in the community. We admittedly love God. And we do all this WHILE nibbling on the "Twinkie"... and just in case you didn't get the reference, the "Twinkie" is sin. We rationalize our behavior by resting on the convenient fact that we are not perfect and that we all sin... but that doesn't mean we can't serve and love God. But, our problem is that we are CHOOSING the "TWINKIE" even though we know we shouldn't. We are choosing sin over God.


As tempting as it may be... DON'T EAT A TWINKIE TODAY! All this talk of junk food has me contemplating a quick stop to the gas station on the way to pre-school. Spend some time thinking about all the "Twinkies" in your life. Those "little sins" that you have a hard time letting go of, despite knowing that you should. Ask God to release the hold they have on your heart. And if you're unaware of any sin, ask God to reveal it to you.... He most definitely will!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Don't Try So Hard

When I read the sub-title to the next section in Chapter 6, I can't help but laugh! "Don't Try So Hard" could be the anthem of my life. In fact, for the longest time, I think it was all my "trying" that was inhibiting my growth in Christ. I worked tirelessly to earn my salvation... my right to be in the club, if you will. I taught Sunday School. I served on the Missions Committee, the worship team. I was involved in a small group. I volunteered for countless organizations... all at the same time. But, after a while, I realized that the more I was "doing"... the less I was "feeling"... and when I say "feeling," I mean having a connection to Christ. You see, I was so caught up in service, that I lost sight of who I was serving... and why.

In my opinion, one of the most astute observations Chan makes in the book is the following:
"Personal experience has taught me that actions driven by fear and guilt are not an antidote to lukewarm, selfish, comfortable living. I hope you realize instead that the answer is love." p. 101

He goes on to site the following Scripture:
"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:13-14

I have a confession to make. When I first read this Scripture... in this context... I flippantly skimmed over it. I mean, seriously, how many times have I heard this Scripture? I'm horrified to admit that I've become desensitized to it. Thankfully, I stopped myself... pointing out my own arrogance... and being mindful of the fact that often times when I think I understand something so well... I really don't understand it at all. And as I read Chan's remarks following this Scripture, I realized that my arrogance had struck again, for he casts a bright light on this Scripture that causes it to shine in a way that I've never seen:

"Do you understand what this passage is saying? When we love, we're free! We don't have to worry about a burdensome load of commands because when we are loving, we can't sin. Do you feel free in your Christian life?" p. 102

For the longest time, I was so blinded by the "burdensome load of commands" that I couldn't even contemplate the thought of loving... especially loving freely. Loving was more out of obligation. Even today, I'm constantly reminded that loving some people is "required"... if I don't chose to love them, I'm reminded (usually by my husband) that I'm not being "very Christian." But even a comment like this... as convicting as it may be... takes us back to the vicious circle... the "burdensome load of commands." I can't win!

But, the reason I can't "win" is because my perspective is wrong. My faith... and by default, my life... is not a game that will be won or lost based on my ability to carry that "burdensome load of commands." Winning is not achieved through the culmination of "checked boxes" on my spiritual To-Do List. The winning comes when I meet Jesus... face to face. And the best assurance I have of this is not only by the act of accepting Him as my Savior... but learning to love... genuinely love... others.


Today, I just want to share something with you... a little encouragement, if you will. Perseverance can be a difficult thing... especially when it's praying for something that is completely out of your control. But, God is so incredibly faithful. I have prayed for my husband and his walk with Christ for almost 10 years... the entire length of our relationship. Praying that he will draw closer to Jesus. It has been a long, bumpy road with many encouraging steps forward... and just as many steps backward. But, this morning, as I was writing this blog and sharing my thoughts about today's entry, he tried to encourage me... with Scripture! You see, he has been faithfully reading my Bible for the last few weeks. Even last night, we were sprawled out on opposite sides of the bed... he was reading the Bible and I was doing my Bible study... and our 3-year-old was cozily tucked away in between us "reading" Dora. The joy I felt is almost inexplicable... a joy that has had no comparison in my life, except for the births of my children. I have prayed for moments like these. I have cried out to God for moments like these. I have dear friends who have also prayed for this and have shared in my tears... knowing the void it has left in my life... but more importantly, the meaning it holds in my husband's.

Ten years seems like an eternity... and I know that some of you have persevered (and are currently persevering) for much longer. But our time here... as long and drawn out (and painful) as it seems, is nothing compared to our eternity in Heaven. So be encouraged. You are not alone. God is faithful!

His Faithful Servant~

Friday, September 24, 2010

Jesus: Making Him My Primary Focus

In the last blog entry, I told you we would spend some time talking about Grandma Clara... who happens to be the grandmother of Chan's wife. Here's what he said about her:

"I spoke recently at Grandma Clara's funeral, and I could honestly tell the mourners gathered that I had never known anyone more excited to see Jesus. Every morning Clara would kneel by her bed and spend precious hours with her Savior and Lover; later in the day, just the sight of that corner of her bed would bring joy-filled tears and a deep anticipation of the next morning spent kneeling in His presence." p. 100.

Today, I want us to really focus on what Chan says next: "Grandma Clara acted toward God the way we act toward people we're madly in love with. When you are truly in love, you go to great lengths to be with the one you love. You'll drive for hours to be together, even if it's only for a short while. You don't mind staying up to talk." p. 100.

So... here's the problem I have with this... I think that almost everyone can remember experiencing this type of "love"... but we also can testify that this "love," or at least this phase of love, doesn't last. That's not to say that it isn't completely possible for this type of love to not only exist, but endure with Christ... not to take Phil 4:13 out of context, but "All things are possible through Him." However, I think that placing this notion in our heads leads us to a preconceived idea that loving Jesus in such a way is unrealistic... at least long term. Again, let me stress that I'm NOT saying that it's unrealistic... but drawing from our own personal experiences makes it extremely difficult to believe. I've come to the realization that so much of my understanding (or maybe I should say "misunderstanding" of Jesus) comes from wrongly applying my perceptions gained in this world to Him!

While I definitely think Grandma Clara's love for Christ is incredible and something to strive for, a few months ago, I would have just settled for God to help me make Him the primary focus of my life... the one I go to... first and foremost... everyday. For me, that journey started with a conversation with someone very dear to me that I know goes to God on a daily basis and CONSTANTLY talks about how much he loves God and Jesus... my 6-year-old son. It should be said that there is an anointing on this child that I can't explain... neither can his father. He incessantly talks about God: how much he loves Him, how much he likes talking to Him. He's always making up songs about God. It's not uncommon to walk by my son's room and find him kneeling by his window... praying or staring at "God's stars." So, when I asked my little boy "Why" he loves God so much, this was his answer: Because He loves me so much.

Really? That was it? At first I was a little confused... I felt as if my son had momentarily become Confucius. It seemed a little too philosophical for me... or maybe it was just a little too simple... I mean, it was coming from a 6-year-old! But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense... even in Grandma Clara's scenario. If you can go back in your mind to a time when you experienced that completely consuming phase of love (the late night talks and never-ending conversations), I think we'd all admit that one of the reasons that time seemed so amazing was because someone wanted to be with us... as much as we wanted to be with them. It's a new experience, a new person that we have so much to learn about, so much with whom to share. But, in the case of human relationships, the novelty wears off... life gets in the way. However, with God, that's not the case... at least, not on God's end. There is no novelty where we're concerned. Life doesn't get in the way. He would stay up late every night talking with us.

But I've never seen God from that perspective. I've always thought that He was too busy for me... that He has way more important things to deal with than hearing about my day. Even as I sit here now and type, I'm realizing, for the first time, that I've never really thought of myself as worthy of such admiration from Him... I mean, I HAVE made a lot of mistakes. I can't really put my best foot forward, or paint a pretty picture of myself with Him... like so many of us do when we first meet someone. Maybe it's out of my own shame that I've placed this mental block on even trying to understanding God's capacity to love me.

A few months ago, I just started with baby steps: making Him my primary focus... even if it was for a short period of time. Some days I even had to lock myself in my room. But, after some time, I actually found myself looking forward to that quiet time. I'm definitely nowhere close to where Grandma Clara was... but, at least, I'm beginning to understand how a love like hers is actually possible.


Try to remember back to those first days of a new love... the endless conversations you had. Spend some time trying to have one of those conversations with God... even if it's for 5 minutes... just try to find the enthusiasm... even if it's for 2 minutes. It's a starting point. Remember: Rome wasn't built in a day.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Seeing Jesus in Heaven

Early on in Chapter 6, Chan references a section of John Piper's God is the Gospel:

"The critical question for our generation- and for every generation- is this: If you could have heaven, with no sickness, and with all the friends you ever had on earth, and all the food you ever liked, and all the leisure activities you ever enjoyed, and all the natural beauties you ever saw, all the physical pleasures you ever tasted, and no human conflict or any natural disasters, could you be satisfied in heaven, if Christ was not there?" p. 101

When I first read this excerpt, it felt like I just received a swift blow to my mid-section. There was a split second where I couldn't catch my breath. It sounds a little dramatic, I know. But, I assure you, it's the truth. It was this consuming realization that both amazed me... and disgusted me. For you see, not once, in all my years of being a Christian, had I EVER thought about seeing Jesus in heaven. My thoughts of heaven consisted of the building anticipation of seeing loved ones, as well as the hopes of residing in a place where there was no more sadness or pain. I've thought about the grandeur of heaven that is referenced in Isaiah... the throne room of God. I've thought about God, Himself, being there... far removed, almost like He's sitting on His perch, observing all of heaven. I've even thought about seeing the Apostle Paul... and having long conversations with him... because I have a lot of questions that I'd like him to answer. But, not once, did I ever imagine seeing Jesus... let alone experiencing a joyful anticipation at our meeting. In that split second, when I couldn't catch my breath, I experienced this horrible combination of shame, embarrassment, sadness and disgust all rolled into one. Leaving myself to ponder the most obvious question: How in the world did this happen?

After the passage, Chan asks an even more disturbing question: "How many of you will read those words and say, 'You know, I just might be okay with that?'" Chan goes on to talk about his Grandma Clara... whom I'll talk about in the next entry. She was so in love with Christ that she could never have been satisfied in a heaven without Him. For some of you, this might not be as significant to your walk in faith as it was mine... but I'm also quite sure that I'm not alone. For, you see, in all my conversations about heaven over the years, I can think of only two people (out of, I dare say, hundreds) that ever truly showed an undeniable anticipation for meeting Jesus face to face. The more I think about it... this only bolsters the argument that we truly don't know what it is to LOVE Jesus... that consuming, endearing, endless love, as with a parent, or spouse, or child. I'll admit that it's a truly difficult concept for me to wrap my head around... but I'll also admit that beginning to understand this concept of loving Jesus is where everything changes for people like me... and maybe you.


Just spend some time thinking about today's entry... specifically the words of John Piper. Share his insight with someone else and get their perspective. I'll warn you that it can be really tempting to "beat yourself up" over this one... especially if your perception of heaven didn't include the anticipation of meeting Jesus. But try to see this moment for what it truly is... a chance to change course... because that's what this is all about!

His Faithful Servant~

Friday, September 17, 2010

Feeling Disconnected From God

Chapter 6 begins a conversation about falling in love with God... something, quite frankly, that is COMPLETELY foreign to me. For me, the idea of "falling in love" brings about a physical reaction... butterflies in the stomach, sweating palms, racing heart beat... definitely romanticized (also a little embarrassing). I still associate this feeling with my husband. Admittedly, the feelings aren't as frequent or prolonged, as when we first started dating... but I still have those moments when I realize how completely and totally in love I am with him all over again.

Yet, despite this endearing love... life just gets in the way. In fact, just the other day, I called my husband at work telling him that I just wanted to put the kids to bed early that night and spend time talking to him. The entire week was flashing by and I had barely spent two minutes with him. With three growing kids, it's becoming increasingly more difficult to find that precious alone time... time to connect. We try to stay on top of it, because the truth is... we both become a little off kilter. Our marriage is important. Our friendship is important. If we don't make it a priority, both of those crucial elements of our relationship begin to suffer... and ultimately our family suffers.

So, this morning, as I was enjoying my quiet time, I started thinking about this concept of "falling in love" with God. I'm ashamed to say that it still feels a little silly to me... because I associate this "feeling" with my husband. However, in an effort to push through this mental block, I've decided to just apply the same principles, if you will, to my relationship with God that I apply to my relationship with my husband... most importantly, spending quality, one-on-one time with Him.
One of the biggest traps I used to fall into was confusing Bible study time, or "religious" reading time, as a replacement for my quality time with God. Even books like Crazy Love... books that focus on strengthening our relationship with God... can't take the place of the importance and necessity of our prayer time... our conversation time... with God. Put another way, imagine if we needed to work on our marriages, but instead of talking to our spouses, we just read "self-help" books, waiting for our marriages to change. If that was the case, we'd still be waiting...
Today, I want us to start working on our communication skills with God. For those of you that are "old pros"... step it up a notch. But, for those that might be a little uncomfortable with the concept of talking (praying) to God... try something a little different. When most people think about praying, they think about throwing up a laundry list of requests to God. But think about how your spouse would react if all your conversations resulted in a list of things you want them to do for you! Just spend time talking to God... asking for nothing but comforting time with Him... and a chance to get to know Him better.

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Direct Choice Between God... and Our Stuff

This is the last entry for Chapter 5... halfway through the book. I've said on many occasions that Chapter 5 was somewhat of a turning point for me. But, it was specifically the last few paragraphs of the chapter that had the most profound effect... and I'm going to talk about them today.

"...[A]s a direct choice between God and our stuff- most of us hope we would choose God. But we need to realize that how we spend our time, what our money goes toward, and where we will invest our energy is equivalent to choosing God or rejecting Him." p. 97

So here's the question I pose to you: If I pointedly ask you to choose between God and your stuff... what would you choose? I think it goes without saying that, as Christians, we would (hopefully) choose God. But, it's not like I'm going to say, "Great! Give me all your stuff then!" There's no one peering around the corner holding your feet to the fire...making you accountable to that choice. There are no apparent consequences to our choice. Talk's cheap... and not always true. I can say that I'm a millionaire, but that doesn't mean that I am, right? Just like I can SAY that I would choose God... confessing the choice really means nothing if I can't back it up. Ever hear the saying: Actions Speak Louder Than Words!

Here are some questions that Chan asks us to ponder: "Are you willing to say to God that He can have whatever he wants? Do you believe that wholehearted commitment to Him is more important than any other thing or person in your life? Do you know that nothing you do in this life will ever matter, unless it's about loving God and loving the people He has made?" p. 97

Think about these questions. How would you answer them... honestly? (And there's a difference between what your answers "should" be and what they truthfully are... or what you want them to be!) Chan goes on to challenge us: "If the answer to those questions is yes, then let your bet match your talk. True faith means holding nothing back; it bets everything on the hope of eternity." p. 97

As I ponder these questions, even now, I have to re-examine my life... my choices... and take an honest account of how I'm living my life. Am I giving God my best? Or am I letting myself off easy... telling myself that I'm "good enough"... good enough for what...I don't know? As I closed the page on this chapter, I walked away encouraged... strangely enough! Encouraged because I finally understood WHY I wasn't feeling connected to Christ. My life wasn't in line with His teachings. I wasn't doing my part. I was encouraged because I realized that I had it all wrong... and I was on my way to allowing Him to make it right!


We'll be starting Chapter 6, so take a look at Chan's video for this chapter. Chan poses an interesting, thought provoking question towards the end of the video. Think about what he asks... and how you would answer that question.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Swimming Upstream

This morning, my husband and I had an interesting conversation about being a Christian... specifically about how hard it TRULY is to follow Christ. Sometimes I say this to people and they look at me as if I have three heads. I've even had someone say to me that being a Christian isn't hard... I just make it hard. I stood my ground and told this person that if she didn't think that following Christ was difficult then maybe she wasn't really following Him. Chan goes on to echo this sentiment in this chapter:

"If life is a river, then pursuing Christ requires swimming upstream. When we stop swimming, or actively following Him, we automatically begin to be swept downstream.
"Or, to use another metaphor more familiar to city people, we are on a never-ending downward escalator. In order to grow, we have to turn around and sprint up the escalator, putting up with perturbed looks from everyone else who is gradually moving downward." p. 95

Even I as I read this now, I can't help but feel this growing frustration. As my husband and I continued to talk this morning, I started connecting specific "dots" in my head. For the past few months, I have been trying to put this "puzzle" together... specifically,

WHY I've felt so disconnected to Christ and the idea of "community in Christ" as a whole. Well... I think I've figured out the answer... and I'm not sure I like it. Chan even touches on it:

"I believe that much of the American churchgoing population, while not specifically swimming downstream, is slowly floating away from Christ. It isn't a conscious choice, but it is nonetheless happening because little in their lives propels them toward Christ." p. 95

I've finally come to understand that... YES, I have been "lukewarm"... and, YES, I have given God my leftovers FAR MORE than my best. I've come to the frightening realization that I am the "rich man" Christ was referring to... and that scares me... immensely. And as I go to church and talk to my other Christian friends, I'm noticing that I'm not the only one. The difference, however, is that many of them don't seem to care... at least they don't care enough to make changes in their lives. And the overwhelming answer I get is this: "It's not realistic... in this society." So my question then, is this: Do we allow this flat screen TV, iPhone, Facebook, Twitter, Mac-mansions, rent-to-own furniture, 50-year mortgages, buy-now-pay-later mentality, sex and image obsessed society dictate how we follow Christ? Is our faith a game that is played within the perimeters and rules of society? God help us if it is!

But, we all know that it isn't. It's just so much easier to say that things are different now... that following Christ is harder today than it was 2000 years ago. (But, quite honestly, I would take the "tough" temptations of today over the stonings and beheadings that many of Christ's followers faced 2000 years ago... and still face today!) I'll close today's entry with Chan's take on the subject:

"What scares me most are the people who are lukewarm and just don't care... Many of us believe we have as much of God as we want right now, a reasonable portion of God among all the other things in our lives. Most of our thoughts are centered on the money we want to make, the school we want to attend, the body we aspire to have, the spouse we want to marry, the kind of person we want to become... But the fact is that nothing should concern us more than our relationship with God; it's about eternity, and nothing compares to that. God is not someone who can be tacked on to our lives." p. 96


Francis Chan has a website that he updates every-so-often. I checked it out the other day and was really intrigued by his entry for September. As I read his entry, I couldn't help but ask God to bring friends into our lives that live as Francis and his family live. I think it's so encouraging to hear about people that live by faith... but knowing people, being friends with those people, I can only image how profound the impact would be. Yesterday afternoon, I went over to a friends house to talk. After almost three hours of conversation, we came to the realization that talk is cheap... and complaining gets us no where. We've decided that we have to be the change we so desperately want... even if we have no idea how to get there. We're just going to trust God to show us the way.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Love Is Patient... Are You?

When I say, "1 Corinthians 13:4-13" some of you might stare with a quizzical look drawn across your face. However, if I say, "Love is patient and kind" those of you not familiar with the actual Scripture reference might nod your heads in acknowledgment. I think this particular Scripture might be the most referenced in the Bible... second, maybe, to John 3:16. It's recited at almost every wedding I've ever been to. In fact, I refused to have it read at my wedding for that exact reason... yes, I do have some lingering issues with rebellion. For those of you not familiar with the Scripture, here's some of it (and for those of you familiar with it, it wouldn't hurt to read over it again!):

"Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on it's own way; it's not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong doing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends... faith, hope and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13" p. 94

Chan writes the following: "So God accesses our lives based on how we love. But the word love is so overused and worn out. What does God mean by love?" He uses this Scripture as the example God has put before us... on how we should love. The problem, however, is that "... those words have grown tired and overly familiar, haven't they?" p. 94

Chan goes on to share a very interesting challenge that I want each of us to take:

"I was challenged to do a little exercise with these verses, one that was profoundly convicting. The the phrase Love is patient and substitute your name for the word love. (For me, 'Francis is patient...') Do it for every phrase in the passage." p. 94

I could have just stopped at "Deirdre is patient." I lose that battle about one hour into my day... everyday. As I continue on with the passage, I just became more discouraged. Just this morning, I received an email for one of the young ladies that used to sing with me on the worship team at church. She's embarking on an amazing new experience with YWham! I told her to make sure she let's us know how we can pray for her... but I also admitted that I was a little jealous. But, the truth is, I'm a whole lot jealous! Don't get me wrong... I'm completely and 100% thrilled for her and the blessings this experience will bring into her life (as well as all the lives she will touch)... But, man... if I'm honest, I have to admit that there is a part of me that really wishes it was me... that part usually rears its ugly head when I'm surrounded by three screaming kids, a stack of dirty dishes, two loads of laundry and something sticky on the floor that smells somewhat like maple syrup... and if you know anything about my life right now, this is pretty much an everyday occurrence!

But, alas... I am not alone! Chan goes on to say: "By the end, don't you feel like a liar? If I'm meant to represent what love is, then I often fail to love people well. Following Christ isn't something that can be done halfheartedly or on the side. It is not a label we can display when it is useful. It must be central to everything we do and are." p. 94


Share Chan's challenge with someone else. By now, you've probably figured out that I'm trying to get you talking about these things with other people... talking about your faith with other people. For some of you, this is easy. For others, it's a little more difficult. What I've come to realize is that "talking about my faith" does not mean "selling or pushing my faith" onto other people. I've had some of the most amazing conversations by just simply asking people what they think. It's a great way to start a conversation!

Monday, September 6, 2010

What Really Matters in Life?

Last night, I asked my husband this question. I already knew what his answer would be... me and the kids... but I was trying to prove a point. You see, if you asked me the exact same question, my honest answer would have been the same as my husband's. But, as a Christian, shouldn't my answer be Christ? Being the hands and feet of Christ in this world? Being the love of Christ to everyone we come in contact with? What resulted was this really great conversation between me and my husband. It was similar to the age-old agrument... What Came First: The Chicken or The Egg? He thought that having our family as his number one priority (compared to money or career) was proof that Christ is what matters most on our life. My retort was that when we place Christ first, there's this "trickle down effect" into all aspect of our lives... essentially, our lives bear the fruit of our faith, thus making family a major priority in our lives. We walked away from the conversation not really focusing on who was "right" or "wrong" but, instead, realizing that regardless of our opinions, Christ was definitely not the specific answer we would give if posed with this question.

Chan goes on include what I think is a really great quote from Tim Kizziar: "Our greatest fear as individuals and as a church should not be of failure but of succeeding at things in life that don't really matter."

After I read this, I immediately started to run down a mental list of all the things I've heard some people claim success in: a golf swing, the purchase of a new car...after talking down the dealer, a tennis game, obtaining the best flat screen TV with Blu-Ray and surround sound, being the best griller on the block, having the most Silly Banz (and this came out of the mouth of an adult, mind you!), having the most designer shoes, obtaining season tickets to the Red Socks. That list is truly endless... and quite ridiculous, if you really think about it! I think most of us would agree that these things DON'T really matter in life... but how many of us spend more time focused on these things compared to the time we spend focused on God? Better yet, how many of us are more willing to share this type of "success" with our neigbors or friends than our faith? What matters more?

Chan writes this:

"God's definition of what matters is pretty straightforward. He measures our lives by how we love. In our culture, even if a pastor doesn't actually love people, he can still be considered successful as long as he is a gifted speaker, makes his congregation laugh, or prays for 'all those poor, suffering people in the world' every Sunday." p. 93

So, if we use this... our ability, our willingness to love... as a way to measure our success in life, how would you fair? Money doesn't matter, job titles don't matter, possessions and collections don't matter. If everything else was taken away and you were only left with your ability and willingness to love, how successful would you be at what truly matters in life?


Spend some time thinking about what really matters in life. Ask some other people for their opinions as well. As you do this, remember that actions and words are two completely different things. You can say that family is most important... but do your actions reflect that? Take an account of your heart and reconcile it with your actions.

Friday, September 3, 2010

What Is The Truth?

When we first started looking at Chapter 5, we focused our attention on Revelation 3:15-18. Today, we are going to revisit part of this Scripture... and how it may pertain to us. The following is what Chan has to say about the passage. As you read, try to imagine yourself as someone in a present-day Laodicea:

"Jesus' instruction to the people of the church of Laodicea was to buy from Him the things that really matter, the things they didn't even realize they needed. They were wealthy, but Jesus asks them to exchange their wealth for His gold that is refined through fire; they had clothing, but Jesus counsels them to buy clothes that were truly white and would cover their nakedness; they did not desire anything, but Jesus says they needed salve for their eyes that would cure their blindness. He asks them to give up what they thought was so nessecary and valuable, in exchange for what really matters." (emphasis added) p. 92

The Bible is peppered with references about the struggles of the "rich" when it comes to following Christ... truly following Him. However, this passage places all the cards of the table. I've read it at least a dozen times in my life (not including the dozen or so times I've read it this past week!)... but recently, God has revealed a deeper truth to me in this Scripture. It's a truth that I have been running from for quite some time... a truth that I fervently believe will free me from so many things I have struggled with these past few years. It's a truth, that if acted prudently upon, would command a closeness in my relationship with Christ that I have never experienced. The truth is this: I am that "rich" person from Laodicea.

It was at this EXACT point in my first reading of Crazy Love that I started to put the pieces together. Like many others I know, within moments of reading the first few pages, I fell in love with this book. It was so incredibly similar to that first, much anticipated, spring breeze that fills your house after a long, stagnant winter. It was a breath of fresh air, a change in perspective. I've also compared it to finding that one missing puzzle piece that you've been searching for... if you have kids, you understand! You have this 100 piece puzzle that's absolutely amazing, but somewhere along the way, you lost a piece (or two). Of course, you can still put the puzzle together, but it's never quite the same. That's where I was before reading this book. I was confident that I was a Christian, but something was just... off... something was missing. Within the first few chapters, I convinced myself that this book held the answers... it was my missing puzzle piece. But, after reading this particular segment... everything came into focus. This book wasn't the missing piece. It was just the instrument God used to open my eyes to His truth.

Here's the truth, as I understand it in Scripture... and how it pertains to me. I am one of those rich people in Laodicea. But, if I'm truly honest with myself, I've actually been in a far more dangerous place. For the people of Laodicea, blinded by their riches, were unable to acknowledge their need for Christ. I, on the other hand, will readily admit my need for Christ... I just don't want to give up my "riches" for Him... I want them both. For, you see, despite my label as Christian, I have held on to those things I've considered valuable in this world, moreso than I have to my faith and trust in Christ. (I can't help but think of my grandmother here... "You can't eat your cake and have it too!") But that's exactly what I've been doing. I've been giving just enough of myself... whatever that really means... all that really matters is that I haven't given all of myself... I've even refused to when He has required it. It was here that I realized something that would forever change my walk with Christ: I cannot fully embrace Christ with both arms, if I am still using those arms to hold on to the things of this world. One of the arguments I hear most from people is that "everything is okay in moderation," or "it's all about balance." But, here's my anwser to that: When Christ is at the center of your life, there really is no room for moderation. He eternally tips the scales... that NOTHING of this world could EVER balance them... and why would we want to. It comes down to believing that Christ is better than anything of this world. If we truly believed that... would we still be holding on to so many things here?


Here's a song that is really ministering to me at this moment. A lot of people I know feel that following Christ means you're "restricted" by what you can't do. (We'll have to save that topic for another day!) This song, however, gives us freedom... and purpose... and power for all we CAN do!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Is Something Better Than Nothing?

This is a question my husband and I debate often in my house? Depending on the topic, we alternate positions... sometimes I argue that something is better than nothing and other times I just say, "Why bother?" Of course, I'm always advocating the former when I'm the one in the "dog house." The flip side being that I also say, "Why bother?" when I've been the one wronged, so to speak... and I think my husband would agree that his stance is the same. Again, perspective is a funny thing, isn't it?

Chan offers some insight into this: "This holy God deserves excellence, the very best I have. 'But something is better than nothing?' some protest. Really, is it? Does anyone enjoy token praise? I sure don't. I'd rather you not say anything than compliment me out of obligation or guilt. Why would we think God is any different?" p. 92

The truth here is that a "compliment" or a "thank you" given out of obligation or guilt isn't genuine. For instance, the other day, I took a toy away from my son because it was partially broken, creating a new and incredibly exciting weapon to use against his sisters. I immediately took the toy away from him, despite his relentless protesting. I told him that he should thank me because I was saving him from bigger trouble later. Well... he thanked me. But, it definitely wasn't sincere. I dare say it was sarcastic... He gets that from his father! (Of course, those that know me... know that he completely gets it from me!!!!) However, the thanks I received from his two sister, for ending their brother's tormenting, was completely sincere. Their hugs were genuine and their words of love were joyous. Both were offerings of thanks... but both were completely different. One truly made me feel loved and appreciated... and the other made me want to give someone a swift kick in the pants.
When we're on the receiving end, intentions always seem to matter. So why is it that when we're the ones giving, we don't hold ourselves to the same standard? Maybe we're not aware of the double standard? Maybe we genuinely feel that something IS better than nothing? Or maybe we've never taken the time to look at things from another perspective?
Take some time to look at this from God's perspective. Take a hard look at everything you give to Him... not just your money. (Your service for Him, your quiet time with Him) Are you giving Him "just enough" or are you giving Him your best? Or are you not giving Him anything at all?