Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A peculair and exquisite experience of Faith

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we're talking about questions we have of God.

In my post today I share about my struggle over the past 17 months in regard to my job, work, and my career. Then I end with some questions that I'd adore to hear your feedback regarding, weather you'd care to answer them here, or over there:

Do you have any unanswered questions and requests before God right now? How's the Holy Spirit encouraging your heart? What's God teaching you during this time?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's God's plan for the church?

As a follow up to my post about What makes Church relevant?, I want to hear your thoughts on what is God's plan for the church?

I'll start by sharing my thoughts, then you can share yours.

When I think about God's plan for the church, there are 2 scriptures that come to my mind:

The first one is Matthew 28:18-20:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Before He left this earth, Jesus gave His disciples some direction as to what he wanted from them. It's often referred to as "the Great Commission". I see Jesus telling His disciples to do 4 things:

Go (to all nations)
Make disciples of all nations
Baptize these disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Teach these disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded of His followers

What's the "Go" about?
I think the big deal here is that Jesus was saying that the gospel is for all (Luke 24:47, Galatians 3:28)-so they will want to go tell everyone about it. Prior to Jesus, there was the Law of Moses that had been given just to the Jews. Even during the personal ministry of Jesus, the focus was always on "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5,6). But both the Law and the ministry of Jesus were preparing mankind for the universal gospel (John 10:16, Isaiah 56:6-8). The Law had showed mankind their need for a Savior but was, in a sense, a barrier to gospel. But through Jesus' work on the cross, the Law was removed (Ephesians 2:13-18). The prophet Isaiah told in advance how it would be when he said: "And all the nations shall stream into it." (Isaiah 2:2). Jesus, in the "Great Commission," announced that the time of which Isaiah had spoken seven centuries before had now arrived (Acts 10:34,35, Colossians 1:23).

What is it that we're going to all nations with?
I think it's safe to conclude that the implication is that we are to go to all nations, or to every place, with the gospel. I think it's important to recognize in this discussion that there are many other gospels, but to preach them makes us enemies of God (Galatians 1:6-9). The gospel's message is not pop culture, or psychology, left or right wing social and/or political agendas; it is about convicting of sin, and leading people to embrace Jesus as their Savior and put Him first in their life (Romans 3:22-24,Matthew 16:24-25). It means proclaiming the love and grace of God by which we were redeemed. It means a call to repentance and obedience.

What's a disciple?
Putting one's trust in what Jesus did on the cross and letting Him pay for our sins, and choosing to follow after Jesus, is only the beginning. A disciple is one who follows after another; so as disciples of Jesus, we are people who both believe in Him and follow after Him. Both believing and following require learning some things , experiencing some things, and doing some things. Jesus instructed His disciples to help others in this process of learning, experiencing, and doing.

I almost don't want to touch this one because there's so much disagreement regarding this in today's church. I'll just make it simple; Jesus was baptized (Luke 3:21-22) and God said He was pleased. When Jesus was baptized it looks to me like He was consecrating Himself for His ministry. Then in this Matthew 28:18-20 passage He tells His disciples to go baptize others. I do not see where it says that baptism is necessary to enter into salvation, but that it's part of being a disciple, a follower after Jesus. It's a public proclamation of the fact that a person is choosing to die to himself and his sin (symbolized by the going under water) and rise up (symbolized by the coming out of the water) to a new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:1-10 ).

Now we're back to the whole process of learning, experiencing, and doing. We're even given the curriculum - everything Jesus commanded of His followers. Because of this I see the main thrust of disciple-making to be to teach about Jesus, who He is and what He did, what He commands of His followers, and to engage in what we see Jesus doing.

The second scripture about what is God's plan for the church 1 Corinthians 12:1-26:, specifically verses 7, 12, & 26:

7 - Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

12 - The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

26 - If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

I find this scripture passage significant because it emphasizes inter-connectedness. That Christ's disciples are to be in the process of following Christ together. That God gives each of them gifts that will be for the group's good. That we hurt and rejoice with one another.

These 2 scriptures, Matthew 28:18-20 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-26 lead me to conclude that God's plan for the church is for His followers to be going out telling others the gospel, baptizing those who embrace the gospel, teaching those who accept the gospel how to be disciples, and participating in life together, helping one another out and sharing in one another's sorrows and joys.

These are just my thoughts on what I see in scripture, what about you - What do you believe is God's plan for the church?

Friday, September 24, 2010

What makes church relevant?

I love the church. I love Christians. I even have a fondness for the foibles of both the church and Christians.

Because I've found that when I really love someone or something I love all of it, the good and the bad; it's just that I always want what is better for the object of my love. My heart cries out to see the church thrive, expand, and be all that she can be in this world. I want to see Jesus lifted up, and His cause advanced.

I'm not blind to the fact that there's much disillusionment with the church today. There have been times when I've been discouraged by what I've seen and experienced in the church. I've read several thoughtful posts out here in Blog land on this very topic; some of my favorite posts being from Matt at The church of no people, David at Fire and Grace, and Bill at Thin edge.

Today I read a promo for a book entitled Hipster Christianity: Where Church and Cool Collide by Brett McCracken that's got me thinking about this whole topic again. McCracken's book is supposedly an in-depth journalistic look at this phenomenon of cool Christianity in the 21st century. Chuck Colson gave this book a good enough review in an article entitled Wannabe Cool Christianity to have me wanting to read the book for myself.

But it's also got me asking those same questions that have been on my heart for these last few years: What exactly is the church? What does the Bible indicate is God's plan for the church? How can we carry that plan out? How can I be a more effective part of this whole process?

These questions don't produce simple answers that are always cut and dried. But today I'll give you a few of my thoughts on the first of these issues, and then I'd like to hear yours. So that any one post isn't too long, over several days next week I'll give you my thoughts on one or more of these questions and then illicit your feedback.

What exactly is the church?

The word "church" comes from the Greek word ekklesia. Ekklesia is a compound world meaning "ek" out of, and "klesis", a calling. (W.E. Vine, vol. 1, pg 83). When I think about Jesus' earthly ministry as recorded in the gospels, he came advancing God's Kingdom here on earth. God's way of life. He was calling people to Himself.

In Matthew 16:13-20 we've got that famous passage where Jesus is asking who are people saying that He is, and then He asked Peter who Peter thinks He is, and Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. Jesus responds by saying that upon this rock He'll build His church. There's a lot of debate about if the King James translators got it right by using the word "church" here, and I've heard Catholics say that Jesus spoke here about the formation of a religious organization, that became the Catholic church or belief system. To be candid, neither of these interest me. What interests me here is that Jesus indicates that there are those who are going to follow after Him (call them "church" or however else you wish to say it) and that He, Jesus, is the foundation for these followers - this I find significant! From Genesis to Revelation it's all about Jesus.

I see three metaphors used in the New Testament to describe the church. There is the "Bride of Christ" (John 3:22-26 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, Ephesians 5:22-33, Revelation 18:21-25, Revelation 22:10 - 20) which refers to universal, invisible, mystical body of Christ made up of all of the redeemed from the time of Christ until the rapture. There is the "Body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:7-26 ). There is the "Building of Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:9, Ephesians 2:19-22 ). Many believe that both the body and bride of Christ references refer also to that same invisible, mystical group of all saints throughout time. Others believe that these two metaphors refer to the the local, visible, organized gathering of followers of Christ. I've read and can see the merits of both schools of thought regarding these two metaphors (Great discussions as to why these two can be seen as the local or universal church can be read here, as well as here, and here). Personally, I see the body of Christ as referring to the local, organized, gathering of a group of Believers because of the 1 Corinthians 12:7-26 passage that describes how God has set it up so that His followers can meet together, and use gifts He's given them, to benefit one another.

So I see in the Bible two types of "church". That universal, invisible, mystical body of Christ made up of all of the redeemed from the time of Christ until the rapture. The group of followers who meets in one location to benefit the group.

What do you think "church" is?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It really is a choice

This week at Kingdom Bloggers we're all sharing something we've found helpful in our marriages.

You can check out what I have to say and answer my question over there, or just answer the question here. I've heard that Abraham Lincoln once said that a person is about as happy as he chooses to be. I think that's true. I think that thought applies so well to marriage, we're as happy with our spouse as we choose to be. It's up to me if I want to focus on what may annoy me, or I may think is missing, or on my husband's imperfections, or I can focus on his strengths and how God has blessed me with him. Having done so many things wrong in the past, I'm grateful that today I can live choosing to enjoy the good things.

What about you, what do you choose?

Monday, September 20, 2010

The burqa can symbolize a lot of things

The new French Burqa law was announced this week.

The law requires that people who wear burqas or nigab, two versions of the full-body, face covering, robe worn by some Muslim women, will pay a fine of €150 (about $190) and may also require that they attend a course on "republican values".

The burqa is a garment worn by religious Muslim women that covers the entire body. It is worn as a symbol of physical modesty. It was mandatory under the Taliban in Afghanistan. To my way of thinking, the fact that women in fundamentalist Muslim communities are required to wear the burqa, makes the burqa a product of cultural submission that reflects the subordinate status — in a real sense, the chattel status — to which women are consigned in Islamist ideology. But it would seem that Freedom in Islam is seen as perfect submission to Allah. That is the only life choice the voluntarily shrouded woman makes, and the burqa is emblematic of all the doctrinal subjugation that necessarily follows.

I think that as Americans we find outlawing a religious symbol to be wrong thinking. Although we may hate what the burka symbolizes in terms of how women are being treated, we tend to respect the right of others to choose their religion. But I read an interesting article over at The Wall Street Journal entitled To ban the burqa - or not , where one of the authors, Bret Stephenson, pointed out that the US is not as free as we like to think. Stephenson point out how America banns and prosecutes polygamy (no matter what a group's religion believes), because we believe it's inherently abusive to women and families. Stephenson also pointed out that every culture has social norms and uses as an example that in America we would not allow a nudist to walk down the street in nothing but his sneakers, that we only allow a certain latitude in individual choice. Stephenson makes the point that "Plainly the French overwhelmingly believe wearing the burqa/niqab crosses the line."

My son Devon directed me to an interesting article recently over at NRO, There Oughtn't be a Law. As I read the article I found the way the author, Andy McCarthy, used the burqua as a dual symbol fascinating.

McCarthy reminds the reader of many events from the last couple of years, five of which are:

Derek Fenton being fired from his job with the Jersey Transit Authority. (Remember, he's the pastor from Florida, who burned pages from the Koran to protest the Ground Zero mosque. Don't get me wrong; what Fenton did disgusts me. But in America we allow people to say all manner of things, to even burn the American flag if they so choose. People protesting prop 8 in California, the vote about the legalization of Gay marriage, were allowed to burn Bibles on the steps of Mormon churches. So why was Fenton fired for something that he did in his free time that did not result in being charged for any crime?)

The Obama administration joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference in a UN resolution designed to make blasphemy against Islam illegal.

Yale University press refusal to publish Jayette Klausen's book entitled "The Cartoons that Shook the World" until the over cartoon depictions of Mohammed were purged from the book.

A New Jersey judge's refusal of a protective order to a woman being serially raped by a Muslim man she was trying to divorce — after all, the jurist reasoned, the man was simply following his religious principles, under which his wife was no more than a vessel, bereft of any right to say no.

Uniformed police in Deerborn, Michigan arresting Christian Evangelists for handing out gospels of John. This was said to be a "crackdown on disturbing the peace" because Deerborn is a heavily Muslim populated area.

After the reminders McCarthy makes these comments utilzing the burqa as a symbol that I find fascinating:

"It is the ethos of self-loathing. That is our burqa: our feebleness, our lack of cultural confidence. To shed it, we will have to rediscover why the principles it cloaks are superior and worth fighting for. If we don’t, the law won’t save us any more than it will save France."

What do you think, has America succumbed to preemptive capitulation to the point where we now have our own burqa of lack of cultural confidence?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can we trust them to God?

This week at Kingdom Bloggers is back to school week. I've posted about what's significant about school starting for me this year.

I'm also asking a couple of questions that you can answer over there or here:

Do you ever struggle with trusting your kids' future to God? Do you experience anxiety about your children's choices, or are you at peace in the knowledge that God's in control?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

Have you seen that bumper sticker, or heard the sentiment elsewhere, Can't we all just get along?

Whenever I see this bumper sticker I think to myself that the answer is no. We can't always just all get along.

While I believe that we can work to overlook differences, and tolerance is often a good thing, and respect is necessary, there ARE things worth fighting for.

Recently my son Devon shared this quote from Ehud Olmert that I adore:

"We will not hesitate, we will not apologize and we will not back off...This anarchy is over. You can condemn us, you can boycott us, you can stop visiting us and, if necessary, we will stop visiting you...Never again will we wait for salvation that never arrives...[we] are now capable of standing up to those who seek [our]des...truction - those people will no longer be able to hide behind women and children. They will no longer be able to evade their responsibility... You are welcome to judge us, to ostracize us, to boycott us and to vilify us. But to kill us? Absolutely not."

This is a man who knows what he believes is worth fighting for.

How about you, is there anything you think is worth fighting for?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Are we guaranteed that God in us attracts people?

Our pastor definitely has me thinking.

While I enjoyed today's sermon, I was uncomfortable with something the pastor said. It's not a huge issue, and it's even something I've said myself in the past; but at this point in my life I see it as a "Christian myth".

I'd like to tell you the "myth", explain why I don't believe it, and then hear your thoughts on it.

The Myth: If you really love God, and are really following His will for your life, then people will be so attracted to the Jesus in you that they will be approaching you and asking about God and so, you'll frequently be sharing your faith and leading people to God. Now the myth does not ignore the fact that many will be adverse to the gospel in general, it just affirms that if you're really loving God and living all out for Him, then many others (those who aren't adverse to the gospel) will be drawn to you.

Is it just me, or does this sound rather similar to the old faith healer myth about how if you don't receive your healing, then it's your fault because you must not really believe?

Just off the top of my head I have 5 concerns with this whole kind of thinking:

1. The emphasis is on what I do, when I think the emphasis should be on what God does.
Don't get me wrong, I fully recognize that we have our part in this life of faith. One of my favorite Bible passages is Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV) :

12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

I think this passages shows that balance; we obey and engage in actions, but it's God's power that's enables us to do so.

2. It borders on being a formula - If you do your part, then God will do His, in just this way.
The older I get, the more I don't believe we can box God in. He's God and He does things His way. Frequently it doesn't end up being the way I had things figured. Sure there are principles that I can count on, but I have no guarantee how God is going to manifest those principles.

3. It has not been my experience.
While my experience is not everything, it is something. I have been a Christian for just under 4 decades and can count on one hand the times someone has come up to me and told me that they see something different in me and would I please tell them what it is. So while this has happened to me, it's obviously not been the norm. So, does this mean I don't love God enough? That I'm not obedient enough? Well, the truth is that the answer to both these questions is absolutely YES. I want and need to constantly be growing in my love for God, constantly becoming more aware and changing the way I live so that I can be more fully His. But my experience is that as imperfect as I am, God in His mercy, grace, love and goodness, because of who He is, chooses to bless me and use me anyway. It's just not about me.

4. It seems to have an underlying assumption that numbers count.
If you really love God, and are really living for Him, then you'll be constantly bringing people to Him. I sincerely believe this may or may not be true. I do not think God has the exact same plan for everyone. Some people greatly impact just a few people, while others impact masses.

5. Does this smack of guilt?
Is it just me or could this myth make some shy, obedient, loving, Believer feel like they're doing something wrong just because people aren't walking up to them all the time and asking they why they are different?

To be candid, I'm just thinking aloud on this issue. I'd welcome your input.

Do you believe that the common Christian thought that
If you really love God, and are really following His will for your life, then people will be so attracted to the Jesus in you that they will be approaching you and asking about God and so, you'll frequently be sharing your faith and leading people to God, is Truth or Myth? Why?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thinking about the Cordoba Initiative

Writing helps me process.

So I'm here writing about the proposed Cordoba initiative (Islamic cultural and community center planned for downtown New York commonly referred to as the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’) to help me sift through the huge amounts of information and focus my own thoughts on the issues. I've put into bold italics here those questions that my research has caused me to ask myself. I don't know that I have anything new or more to add to the discussion, but I am interested to hear your thoughts. Because, although I have access to plenty of people's thoughts on this issue, I haven't heard most of yours.

First off, if you click over to the Cordoba initiative website you will read right up front that the "Cordoba initiative seeks to actively promote engagement through a myriad of programs, by reinforcing similarities and addressing differences". That sounds good to me.

On the site there's a link to commonly asked questions and, after a bit of looking I found their answer to the first question on my mind - why build a Mosque so close to the location of ground zero? Their answer:

"Strictly speaking, it will not be a “mosque,” although it would have a prayer space on one of its 15 floors. At the beginning, no one considered the fact that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf Abdul Rauf’s current mosque is 12 blocks from the Ground Zero site, while the Park51 Community Center location is only 2 and one-half blocks away. We never discussed wanting to be close to Ground Zero; our goal was to find a good real estate opportunity for a community center. 51 Park seemed to fit the bill."

"We were always close to the World Trade Center. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been the Imam of a mosque twelve blocks from the Twin Towers for the last 27 years. American Muslims have been peacefully living, working and worshipping in this neighborhood all along and were also terribly affected by the horrific events of 9/11. We wanted to build a community center in our old neighborhood, and the Park51 location became available. (In our part of lower Manhattan, it’s hard not to be close to Ground Zero)."

So, I find myself sincerely asking these questions:
Could this group really have been so oblivious of the location and the of the site's proximity to Ground Zero and the emotions this would evoke?
Was this location for building for "Muslim New Yorkers something similar to a YMCA" chosen simply because of real estate availability?
Let's say that the location was chosen simply due to availability of real estate, doe this make the fact that the Islamic Community center will over look Ground Zero irrelevant?

If the goal of this center is indeed to "promote engagement" and bridge differences, would it be much wiser to wait for availability of real estate that will not cause so much pain for many, and appear to many to be rubbing salt in the wound?

Danielle Parker wrote a moving article espousing her views on the pain the location engenders that you can read on the Huffington Post September 9 edition. Her article expresses what she thinks the Mosque means from both the victims and a historical perspective. From a victims perspective Parker thinks that the location of the Mosque is akin to rubbing salt into the victims wound; she says that many suffer from PTSD, and as such, visual reminders trigger painful emotions. Parkers sees the location of the proposed Mosque as a visual reminder. As I read this I did have to ask if the Ground Zero memorials are also a visual reminder and do those trigger PTSD emotions? Or is that different because it's showing remembrance in a positive light? Historically, she believes that the Mosque in Cordoba Spain signified the Islamic supremacy over the Christians in the conquest of this territory.

Robert Sharp (this is not the Independent Features writer Robert Sharp. This man is a Campaigns manager at English PEN and writes for several political blogs ) wrote an article in defense of the Mosque that you can check out here. He believes that although the proposed Islamic Community Center is near Ground Zero it is not on it and that there already exist many Mosques in the downtown area so he doesn't see why all the fuss. He says:

"This controversy has clearly been manufactured by those who seek to polarise American political debate. It is depressing and astonishing that the arguments against the centre have gained any traction at all. One might expect this in Europe, with its muddled and inconsistent relationship with secular ideals. Or in theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Iran, with their blanket intolerance of other faiths. But for a country which explicitly enshrines human rights such as free expression and freedom of religion in its constitution, it is bizarre that the debate has advanced so far. "

Perhaps one of the most interesting articles I've read on this issue was an article from The Economist August 19 that looked at Arab reactions to the Cordoba Mosque. These ranged from those who thought this entire debate just underscores "rising Islamophobia" in America, to those who think that in the face of so much public resentment, it might be better to build the mosque elsewhere.

Another question on my mind that the Cordoba initiative website addresses is - why the name Cordoba? The site states: "The name Cordoba was chosen carefully to reflect a period of time during which Islam played a monumental role in the enrichment of human civilization and knowledge".

Since my history knowledge is admittedly lacking, I did some research into Cordoba. Wikipedia is frequently a nice starting point, and there I learned that Cordoba is a large mosque in Spain that was built on the site of a conquered Visogothic church. It's really interesting when you think about it because the Visogoths were a member of the western group of Goths who sacked Rome and created a kingdom in present-day Spain, and then we see the Umayyad Moores conquering them and taking over their church and making it a Mosque. Currently the Cordoba mosque is a well known sight seeing attraction attraction and is considered one of the World’s most unique monuments and a masterpiece in Islamic art.

So, I ask myself:
Was the name Cordoba chosen because it's one of the most well known and beautiful existing examples of Islamic art and religion, or because it's the site of a conquered Christian church?
Am I paranoid for even asking this question?
I tend to think that questions are OK, it's assumptions that cause problems.

But, as I mention above, I'd like to hear your thoughts in reference to the bold and italic questions that I'm asking myself. I welcome your insights and the fact that you'll help me clarify my own thoughts.

Stepping out of my comfort zone into God's blessing

This week over at Kingdom Bloggers we're sharing about ways God has blessed us recently. If you want to read how God challenged me to move out of my comfort zone and then He blessed me when I finally obeyed, you can check out my post over there.

My question for you that you can answer here or over at Kingdom Bloggers is: Can you think of a time when God seemed to be prompting you to serve in a way that was totally not your personality, that was outside of your comfort zone? What happened?

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

God speaks for God

I'm not sure where it was that I heard it first, but I've always liked that statement: God speaks for God.

Yet, while it is true that God speaks for God, in one sense don't Christians also speak for God? To someone who does not know God, and does not have knowledge of Scriptures, God seems silent. So many Americans frequently assume, that if there is indeed a God, then perhaps it is Christians or the religious, who are the ones speaking for Him. If this is true, God must be confused; because the messages "from God" are not all in agreement.

To name just a few of many examples: In 1095 Pope Urban II was certain that from Jerusalem to Constantinople there was "an accursed race, a race utterly alienated from God" and so he cried out for what was launched into the first of the Crusades. In the 1400s you've got Joan of Arch saying God called her to lead the armies of France against English occupiers. In the mid 1600s you've got Oliver Cromwell capturing the town of Drogheda and massacring it's residents calling his actions the "righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches". In the 1700s there's Jonathan Edwards calling the Catholic Pope the antichrist. You've got Joseph Smith who claims that as a young man in 1820 he went out into the woods to pray which of the sects were right. The churches in his area were Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian; Smith claimed that God told him that "all of their creeds were an abomination in his sight". You've got John Brown in 1855 who was certain that God told him to go into battle and so he engaged in that famous raid on Harper's Ferry to obtain temporary control of that federal arsenal to use in his fight against slavery. Brown was later hanged for treason. In the 1980s many saw Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as speaking for Christians and for God. Then there was Paul Hill who testified at his trial for killing an abortion doctor that he was certain that God told him to do so. Hill was put to death by lethal injection on September 3, 2003.

Most Christians will say that the test for if someone is speaking for God is that what the person says will be in accordance with scripture. I have both said and believe this myself. But as I'm reading through God Talk by Ruth A. Tucker I find these words of hers interesting:

"The way to differentiate the voice of God amid mixed messages, many people would argue, is to test the message of the voice by Scripture. So by that means, Joseph Smith Jr. fails while the individual whose message does not violate Scripture passes. But even when we pass on the voice of God, we get mixed messages that are all too often prompted by mixed motives. We do not easily understand our own motives, and this is a factor that should prompt us to remain silent even in instances where we believe we have heard the voice of God. If our silent expression of that voices comes forth in a way that radiates the love of Christ in word and deed, we can conclude that God has truly spoken"

For what it's worth, these words ring true for me.

Aside from my husband sometimes, although I believe God talks to me, I rarely share what He says in a "God told me" format with others. I simply pray, search the Scriptures, and then if I'm still sure it's God, act in obedience. Sometimes that searching the scriptures doesn't actually take place in terms of me sitting down for an hour or so with a Bible in hand, sometimes it does. Sometimes, because I've spent years studying and memorizing Scritpture, I run what I think God is telling me by the Scripture that is already in my mind (I'm especially likely to do this when there is a timing issue involved).

But to be totally honest there have been times I've acted on what I believed God told me that later, in retrospect, I'm not so sure about. There have also been times when I know that I know that God told me something and still to this day remain steadfast in my belief. But the bigger issue for me is that I'm not convinced that I need to use the "God said" language when appealing to others for support. Because, once I've done that, I'm setting myself up as the mouth piece for God. If God really did say it, how then could they deny me their support? It seems much healthier to me to simply put forth what I ask from them and have them pray concerning their response and leave their actions between them and God. If God really told me, can He not also confirm this word in their hearts?

Somehow I also think relationship ties into this. Throughout the Bible I see this relationship theme. God is constantly seeking relationship with mankind and tells those who follow after Him to be in relationship with one another. The directive to Christ's followers to love one another is repeated numerous times in the New Testament. So it seems to me that if I'm in relationship as I should be to others in the body of Christ that I don't need to use the words "God told me" to get them to listen; they'll listen because they already know my life lived out before them, because they respect me and know that I love them.

What about you, do you believe that when God speaks to you, you need to tell others that "God said"? Why or why not?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Silence of God isn't always Bad

"I feel strongly both ways" could be my life statement.

It seems that I'm constantly seeing the need for balance, continually seeing the wisdom on both sides of many issues. I'm constantly noticing that things are rarely ever extremely cut and dried, black and white.

Because of this very thing I decided to check a book entitled God Talk, Cautions for those who hear God's voice by Ruth A. Tucker out from the library. If you know me at all you know that I believe that God does talk to His people. I wrote that whole thing back in March about Why would someone think God doesn't talk to us today . I know that God does talk to us.


Sometimes I'm really uncomfortable with some of what some Christians say God told them.

Just like you, I've seen some who claim to be Christians use the old "God says" to manipulate others. Or what about when people say that God told them things that seem wrong to me? The classic example that many of us have heard, or perhaps even experienced ourselves, is the young man telling a young woman that "God told him they are to wed" only the young woman has received no such revelation.

A kind of similar phenomenon is the whole "answered prayer" thing. I tend to be uncomfortable when someone who lives where I do, southern California, tells me that they prayed for it not to rain and bless God, He answered their prayer. But what about that fact that we need rain and most likely many southern Californians are praying for rain? Or worse yet, the person who jubilantly tells you that they prayed their team would win, and God answered their prayers by making them win. I always find myself wondering if anyone on the opposing team was praying that they'd win?

Another thing, I'm not sure exactly how to say this, but I find it quite odd/interesting how the God many people say they hear speak, seems to espouse the exact same opinions as their own. Sometimes the interactive personalized spirituality that I see among many Christians, seems to fail to recognize our human bent toward subjectivity and self-absorption.

So yes I know God speaks, but I also know God is silent.

It's the silent part that caused me to pick up Tucker's book. She makes a statement in her introduction that captivated my interest:

"Much has been written on the silence of God, but most often with a sigh of resignation - as though the silence is something that we endure. Here I maintain that silence is better than speaking if for no other reason than the fact that silence is far less open to misinterpretation and disagreement than is the spoken word. When God is silent, no one can claim to be God's spokesperson and interpret for God. We too must be silent, and that's not all bad."

As I'm reading this book it's apparent that Tucker is a Dispensationalist. Specifically, she seems to believe in that part of dispensation theology that thinks God works in specific ways only during specific times. So she would, and actually does, say

"the talkative God of today is a second-rate version of the tirnitarian God, who as the Father spoke in times past, who as the Son incarnate lived among us, and who as Spirit inspired and illumines the Scriptures, the silent Word of God"

Seems to me she thinks the only way God speaks to us today is by the Holy Spirit illuminating God's written Word, the Holy Scriptures.

While I can't exactly agree with that, I think she makes some very interesting points. And I would sincerely be very interested in hearing your thoughts on what she has to say. Specifically, do you think that the "talkative" God of today is a second rate version of God? Why or why not? Do you think that we're better off silent sometimes?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Can it still be God if it's not something exciting and "big"?

Our pastor is a wonderful guy. I'm super grateful for him and am blessed by his preaching. But recently he's said a few things about which I was uncomfortable. I probably mistook what he was saying, but the things I most likely misunderstood have got me to thinking (so perhaps my uncomfortableness is a good thing anyway).

One of these was that the pastor had shared a video clip of a brother in Christ from one of our campuses down the hill. This campus is a large church and the brother emanated a sweet spirit as he shared his testimony. Afterward the pastor talked about some of the exciting ways God was using this brother; how he'd started a small group in his home with just a very few people and how God had grown his numbers to over 40. It was a blessing to hear how God's working in this man's life. The pastor then talked about how we need small groups in our local church.

I felt surprised because I know of 5 small groups currently; one of which I facilitate in my own home. My group started small, and now around 1 1/2 years later, is still small. I've both thought and prayed quite a bit since then. Am I somehow missing something? Should I take myself out of the small group venue since I'm not seeing a large increase in people? Is there something I'm doing wrong? Am I not yielded to God's work? Am I in some kind of sin? Am I just an unlikeable dork?

Repeatedly I've sensed the same truth - I'm right where God wants me to be.

God isn't looking for me to be self preoccupied with sin. Daily I come before Him as the Psalmist did in Psalm 139:23-24 and ask God to search me and show me if I have anything in me that's unpleasing to Him. Then I confess my sin, accept His forgiveness (1 John 1:9), and look to His power to help me change (Philippians 4:13).

As I'm thinking about this, I'm reminded of 3 passages that I adore how Peterson in The Message paraphrases. One of these passages is Matthew 16:24:
Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. "Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You're not in the driver's seat; I am. Don't run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I'll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

The other passages is Matthew 6:30:
"If God gives such attention to the appearance of wildflowers—most of which are never even seen—don't you think he'll attend to you, take pride in you, do his best for you? What I'm trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving. People who don't know God and the way he works fuss over these things, but you know both God and how he works. Steep your life in God-reality, God-initiative, God-provisions. Don't worry about missing out. You'll find all your everyday human concerns will be met.

There's also Philippians 2:12-13:
What I'm getting at, friends, is that you should simply keep on doing what you've done from the beginning. When I was living among you, you lived in responsive obedience. Now that I'm separated from you, keep it up. Better yet, redouble your efforts. Be energetic in your life of salvation, reverent and sensitive before God. That energy is God's energy, an energy deep within you, God himself willing and working at what will give him the most pleasure.

As it is with scripture, there's a lot you can take from these passages. The truth they all underscore for me today is that our part in God's work is to be obedient to do that which He calls us to, His part is the results. So if the results are big and exciting, then God be praised. If the results are rather "ordinary", then God be praised.

As in the example of the small group that meets in my home. It's been small but I know that each woman in the group has received a level of intimacy and connection that I fail to see possible in a large group of people. During our time together the participants in this group have gone through, just to name a few, the following: two have lost jobs that were careers that they had invested years into, one had to short sell a house, one had a brother who almost died several times during heart problems and the ensuing operations and difficult recovery, one met, dated, became engaged and got married. My point being that major stuff has happened in the lives of all of us and God chose to bless us with the presence of one another to go through it together. I'm so grateful.

Sometimes I think it's the "ordinary" that life is really all about. The ordinary is where most of us live. Day to day life, for most of us, is somewhat repetitive and not always exciting. On my list of all time favorite books is Practice of the Presence of God by brother Lawrence. Lawrence is a monk who worked in the kitchen (any of us who cook and wash dishes know how monotonous that can be at times), and a man who wanted to be in God's will and presence all the time.

This doesn't mean that I want to limit God in the other way either. Obviously God does do "big" and "great" things, the miraculous still does occur. God heals people, He reveals things to His people that they could not naturally know, He provides divine direction, He brings the ones to Him who seem like they'd for sure never seek Him - sometimes in droves, and sometimes in a trickle. What I'm trying to say is that while God works in the exciting and miraculous, He also works in the ordinary and small.

When it's all said and done, I just want to be obedient to where I feel He's leading me.

What about you, do you ever feel like there's an over emphasis on the "big" ministry being the only valid ministry? Do you ever struggle to maintain your expectancy and connection with God in the midst of the ordinary monotony of daily living?
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