Sunday, November 21, 2010

"Unplugged"... For a Little While!

Just wanted to let you know that I'm "unplugging" for a little while. From time to time, I take a few weeks to unplug from the computer... and "plug-in" to my family. I've been sharing with you that my family has a lot of really big decisions to make, and we will be spending time together the next few weeks... in hopes of getting a little closer to God, and the direction He is leading us in. I'll pick up where we left off in a few weeks...only 3 chapters left!
Wishing You a Very Happy Thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

What Does It Mean "To Live By Faith"?

In the last blog, I talked about how a passage in the book made me realize that my growing frustration is not with God... but with myself. Today, I want to share that passage with you... and then ask a very pointed question:

"Back when I was in Bible college, a professor asked our class, 'What are you doing right now that requires faith?' That question affected me deeply because at the time I could think of nothing in my life that required faith. I probably wouldn't be living very differently if I didn't believe in God; my life was neither ordered nor affected by my faith like I assumed it was. Furthermore when I looked around, I realized I was surrounded by people who lived the same way I did." p. 124

So... it begs to question... what are YOU doing right now that requires faith? In my almost 30 years of being a Christian, I have never once asked myself that question. Maybe the reason is because I wouldn't like the answer... but I think it's more about the fact that I never really thought it was imperative to live by faith as a Christian... I just thought I had to believe in God. The other night, when I had my "epiphany" about the focus of my growing frustration, I engaged my husband in a conversation about Scripture and what it says about how we should live our lives... why we don't live our lives that way and, most importantly, if we were willing to make the changes that were needed. We haven't revisited the conversation. In fact, we just left it open-ended, giving us time to think...squirm... and wrestle with the convictions that God is pressing so firmly on both of our hearts.

But, the conclusions we did come up with hold fast to Chan's follow-up statement:

"Life is comfortable when you separate yourself from people who are different from you. That epitomizes what my life was like; characterized by comfort. But God doesn't call us to be comfortable. He calls us to trust Him so completely that we are unafraid to put ourselves in situations where we will be in trouble if He doesn't come through." p. 124

And that, my friends, was the "one, two punch" that knock me down for the count! Not only is there nothing currently in my life that is requiring me to live by faith...I refuse to get out of my comfort zone... not for a lack of desire, but because I am consumed by fear... which simply boils down to the fact that I don't trust God. My husband was eager to point out that things would be different if we didn't have kids...but WHY? Why should having children affect our decision to trust God? It doesn't... it just further substantiates the truth that we don't really trust Him. What my husband really meant to say was we would be more apt to taking risks IF we didn't have children...and the reason is because if would be a lot easier to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off if and when God wasn't there! We'd be limiting our risks and liabilities. God is never in the equation...except for when we say, "Please, Lord, bless what we are about to do."

Furthermore, we have surrounded ourselves with people that live just as we do. Some of them are facing the same internal (and eternal) struggle... but quite honestly, the majority of them don't really care, at least not enough to contemplate any true and lasting life change. For them, the resounding response goes something like this,"God's not going to call me to uproot my family and move to Africa." I've even had some people tell me that God blessed them with this life, why would they throw it away to live as a peasant...they could do more for "the kingdom" where they are. Great, I say...then WHAT are you doing for the kingdom? This is the question I have been asking myself for the past few days. But, I think the true key to this dilemma is the following question: What should you be doing for the kingdom? Is there a discrepancy between the two? Do your actions match up with the requirement placed upon your life through the Scriptures? The truth is simple: Our faith is not reflected through church attendance, baked bean suppers or church offerings. Our faith is reflected through our actions of love, mercy, compassion and justice. It goes back to Biblical equality. Is that reflected in your life?


Are you living by faith? Can you site one example in your life that requires you to fully trust God? If so, do you trust Him? If not, what are you going to do about it??????

Friday, November 12, 2010

Trusting God Has Left Me Frustrated

Last night, I picked up Crazy Love, trying to figure out what to write for this blog. As I opened the book, it fell upon page 124...close to where I left off on the last blog. Instead of flipping back a few pages, I read the three, isolated sentences at the top of 124:

"God wants us to trust Him with abandon. He wants to show us how He works and cares for us. He wants to be our refuge." p. 124

Well, this was enough to bring me to tears. Granted, being almost 6 months pregnant has made me EXTREMELY hormonal. Add to that three children and homeschooling and you get... tired and hormonal. Now, add to THAT this blog, this book, the small group I'm leading in women's ministry and this "little" side project I'm doing for the upcoming Christmas Tea at my church and you have a perfect storm that decided to break loose last night. I'll be the first to admit that I take on more than I should... but in all fairness, there is MUCH more that I say "No" to! And, it should also be noted that I am stepping away from almost all of my "responsibilities" outside of family after Christmas. In fact, the only thing I'll have left is this blog... and even that will be coming to an end soon. And to be completely and totally honest...I'm terrified. I don't know what it means to "be still."

Obviously, I know what it means... but I don't know what it looks like for me... or better yet, my idea of what I think it looks like IS NOT IN THE LEAST BIT APPEALING. Yes... I know, God's plans are better than ours. That message has been pounded into my psyche for the past two weeks. I'm in the throws of putting together a 30 Day Devotional centered around the lives of real women that have real struggles... and how they depend on Christ for their strength and refuge. I've been reading 3 or 4 of these testimonies a day and then having to write a devotional around each woman's story. Last night, in tears and frustration, I walked away from the computer and threw myself onto the bed...spewing every last thought that was taking up space in my head, out to my bewildered...and a little terrified... husband. The humor in this is that he was getting ready to go to his small group (focused on Crazy Love).

In my mind, I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God's plans ARE better for me than mine. I also know that God has the power to change our hearts. He has changed mine in the past few months... so the frustration comes from the fact that despite knowing these two things, I STILL refuse to trust Him! My frustration is not with God... it's with myself. I finally realized that last night... maybe I'm just realizing it right now! I used to hate reading in Exodus where the Israelites were walking in the desert... following the pillar of cloud during the day and the pillar of fire by night. I didn't understand how they could so easily lose faith. I mean, God was right there and they STILL made bad, selfish, indulgent, self-serving decisions. But, isn't that what I'm doing...what a lot of us are doing? Granted, we don't have the clouds and fire...but, in the same breathe, I can't deny who God is and what he has done... just in my life alone. The light bulb went off as I continued to read the rest of page 124... but I'll save that for the next blog!


Many of you know that Francis Chan and his family are overseas right now. I checked out their update the other day and thought you might find Lisa's postings interesting. If you get a chance, check them out!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Does Equality Really Mean?

When you hear the word "equality," what images does it conjure up? Do you think about women's suffrage or the three fifths compromise reached at the Philadelphia Convention of 1878? Maybe you think of Martin Luther King, Jr. or the more timely gay rights movement? Equality... what it means and who it's "reserved" for... has been a hot button issue for generations, for all races, for both genders, for every age group. So it's no surprise that the Bible speaks very plainly to the issue of equality. But, what might surprise you is what it says:

"Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality, as it is written: 'He who gathered much did not have too much, and he who gathered little did not have too little.'"
2 Corinthians 8:13-15

Here's what Chan has to say about this: "Paul was asking the Corinthian believers to give to impoverished saints of Jerusalem, the goal being that no one would have too much or too little. The idea is pretty far fetched in modern-day culture, where we are taught to look out for ourselves and are thus rewarded. The gap is so extreme in our world that we have to take lightly passages such as Luke 12:33: 'Sell your possessions and give to the poor.' How else can I walk out of a mud shack and back into my two-thousand-square foot house without doing anything? The concept of downsizing so that others might upgrade is biblical, beautiful...and nearly unheard of. We either close the gap or don't take the words of the Bible literally." p. 121

Take a moment to catch your breath, to pick your jaw up off the floor or tend to the stinging ache that resonates from the slap across the face we all just received. I just got through reading a really good book that talks about how we "cherry pick" scriptures to fit into our lives. We take them out of context (a great example of this is Ephesians 5:22: "Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.") Or we say, "Well, things have changed a lot since then... we have to apply scripture to our culture." By doing this, we compare scripture to's adjustable given our situations, based on our comfort level. Seriously, people think this?

Cultures might change, social mores might change... but scripture will never change. It is constant, just as applicable today as it was 200 years ago... 2000 years ago. What changes are our interpretations... our willingness to submit. The scriptures highlighted here today are blaring, "rubber-meets-the-road" calls to action that almost everyone I know balks at... not defiantly, mind you... but almost everyone has an excuse: I need a big house for my family, I need a "good" neighborhood for my kids, having a big house allows me to invite people in, I won't be able to minister to the rich if I don't live with the rich. I'm not here to argue these points, some of them are valid... and I've said a few of them myself... but are they spoken in truth... or, in the back of your mind, is there a part of you that thinks that maybe, just maybe, this isn't what God had in mind. Call it conviction, guilt, conscience...God. Do you doubt your decision, question how you live, how you spend your money? Do you shake your head at the thought of equality... Biblical quality? It's one thing to say you agree with it... it's another to live like you believe it!


Spend some time today thinking about Luke 12:33 and 2 Corinthians 8:13-15. Ask God to reveal to you any selfish desires or strongholds in your life that are making it difficult for you to embrace the concept of Biblical equality. If you're married, talked to your spouse about it. You might be surprised by the conversation.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hoarding the Fishes and Loaves

Today we're going to jump right into the book. Chan states the following:

"Remember the story where Jesus fed thousands of people with one boy's small lunch? In that story according to Matthew, Jesus gave the loaves to His disciples and then the disciples passed them out to the crowd. Imagine if the disciples had simply held onto the food Jesus gave them, continually thanking Him for providing lunch for them. That would've been stupid when there was enough food to feed the thousands who were gathered and hungry.

"But that is exactly what we do when we fail to give freely and joyfully. We are loaded down with too many good things, more than we could ever need, while others are desperate for a small loaf. The good things we cling to are more than money; we hoard our resources, our gifts, our time, our families, our friends." p. 120
In an earlier segment in the book, Chan makes the observation that many of us in "westernized Christianity" truly have no idea what it is to live by faith. It's my belief that this is the exact reason why we have such a difficult time understanding and applying the passage on page 120 to our lives. I don't know about you, but I was brought up with the notion of "saving" pounded into my brain: save for college, save for retirement, save for vacation. I buy a little more food than I need each week in order to stock up my pantry. We rationalize that this is "good practice"... that we're being practical, and maybe we are. However, the problem lies in the fact that I have several cans of vegetables and boxes of rice that have been sitting on my shelves for over a year. Last night, I was doing some work on a writing project and I came across a very interesting statement - - - "rational lies," which is another way to explain the word rationalize. I dare say this is a little insightful... and convicting!
Many of us have never had to rely on a "handout"... the generosity of a stranger. Even when we have "no money" there's a way to find something. For example, this past week my husband and I were faced with some unexpected bills that weren't in the budget. I had an unexpected root canal on Wednesday and then my car broke down yesterday. In a matter of 72 hours, we were faced with over $1000 in bills... bills that weren't accounted for in the budget... bills we will have no way of paying based on my husband's salary... at least not with heating season around the corner and a new mouth to feed soon. But, we did have a credit card. Now, granted, my husband and I don't regularly use credit cards and when we do, we try very hard to pay off the balance... but it came in quite handy yesterday. It got us over the immediate hump of paying the auto shop. We even decided to cash out some of my husband's retirement in order to pay some of our increasing expenses... to buy us some breathing room. But, even then, we are relying on our "man-made" safety net and not our Savior. Of course, we joked that if we go through all of the retirement...THEN we will have to truly trust God.
Why is it so hard to trust Him... regardless of what's in our checking account?
For me, this point just hammers home the fact that so many of us, myself included, have no idea what it is to live by faith. Church (Christianity) is what I do, it's where I go... it's not who I am, at least not completely. I'm a work in progress. We all are. But this piece of the puzzle is key: Faith is about more than just professing our belief. It's about our trust. It's easy to say, "I have faith in Jesus." If you don't believe me, say it yourself. I promise, the words aren't difficult. But, just because you can articulate the words... that doesn't mean that it resonates in your heart... and it certainly doesn't bare witness to your ability to trust God.
Watch this video!!!! I've posted it on the blog before, but it's never been more relevant than it is today. In just 2 minutes, Francis sums up this whole blog... and challenges us with a prayer that has my mind moving a million miles a minute, but has left my body a little shell-shocked. What he suggests here would require us to live in a perpetual state of dependence on God... it's no wonder that his suggestion is 100% counter-intuitive to our society's ideals.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Break My Heart With What Breaks Yours

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned going to a local ministry fundraiser for the Root Cellar. The speaker for the event made a really interesting comment that night that has been stuck in my head ever since. He mentioned that, most likely, John 3:16 is the best known Scripture in the Bible: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." I'm sure you've heard it a time or two yourself. Interestingly, he mentioned that he was actually partial to "the other John 3:16"... specifically 1 John 3:16. So... I was more than a little amused this morning when I saw that Chan references that passage in the book.

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth. Then this is how we know we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence whenever our hearts condemn us."
1 John 3:16-20

Chan goes on to say the following: "In this passage, we see that John questions whether it is possible to truly have God's love in you if you have no compassion for the poor... God didn't just give a little for us; He gave His best. He gave Himself. John is saying that it's no different for us: True love requires sacrifice. And our love is shown by how we live our lives: 'Let us not love with words or tongues but with action and in truth.'" p. 119

We can talk the talk...but do we walk the walk? Better yet: Does our walk MATCH our talk? Almost instantaneously, when I start talking about "compassion for the poor," I'm IMMEDIATELY convicted about the way I live my life. Yes, I live paycheck to paycheck like so many other Americans... but, if I'm honest with you...let alone myself... I would have to admit that the reason I live paycheck to paycheck is because of the things I have. I easily fall into the trap of comparing myself to others: "Well, I don't have a fancy car like so and so," or "I don't waste my money on the latest electronics." I don't even have a cell phone! But, if we've learned anything from this book, comparing ourselves to others is pointless. We are looked upon as individuals...compared only to the one standard that matters... His standard.

Like I said... I'm convicted about how I live my life! But, what do I do with that? Do I sell everything and move into an inner city neighborhood... move to Africa? (Yes, I have truly considered both of those!) But, despite my hearts desire to do both of those things, is it what God wants from me? I don't know the answer to that... but I ask Him almost everyday. Yet, until I get some sort of direction from Him, what am I suppose to do? What are you suppose to do? I'm not sure if I have the right answer, but I can share with you what I've been doing... and it definitely has changed my heart for the better.

I want to go back to an excerpt from The Hole in Our Gospel. It says: "Divided between the things of God and the things of the world, our 'hearts of stone' are incapable of loving the poor unless God changes them to hearts of 'flesh.' Should this not cause us to plead with God daily... for our hearts to be 'broken by the things that break the heart of God'?" p. 116

After pondering this for a while, this is my interpretation: Our struggles with the things of this world inevitably turn our hearts to stone. For me, I'm ashamed to admit... sometimes I find myself motivated more to help the poor out of obligation than love... duty instead of compassion. I hold on to the things of this world with one arm WHILE I "help" the poor with my other arm. Imagine what He could do with me if I allowed Him to use both arms? But the key here is that I have to WILLINGLY let go of the things I'm clinging to in this world. How does that happen? For me... and granted, I'm STILL struggling with this... things started to change when I started asking God to "break my heart for what breaks yours." I've found that when my heart breaks for something, whether it's for my children, my friends or the poor, I am moved into action without thinking... without weighing "cost to benefit." I move because it's what I want to do. I think that's the question we should be asking ourselves: What do we want to do? Does your answer line up with God's plan. If not, maybe you should try asking Him to do a little work on your heart as well!


Take a look at this video. It's an amazing song that really speaks to the subject of this blog today. If you don't have the time to watch the whole video, at least watch from 3:12 to 4:00. The lyrics during this segment are an INCREDIBLE prayer that I have used quite a few times!