Sunday, July 31, 2011

Wedding Madness.

I've finally reached the age when all of my friends are deciding to get married. I'm sure you all know what I'm talking about: 11 weddings within one calendar month. People are moving and changing their names, and it's throwing me off! While I think this is crazy, apparently it's normal for growing up. I'm just new to this whole "growing up" notion. As I've been attending so many weddings, showers, and parties, it's really put me in a wedding daze. But not in the silly, romantic way. It has me thinking more about my relationship with the Lord.

Throughout Scripture we are called the Lord's Bride, we are in a covenant relationship with God. However, Ezekiel 16 in the ESV Bible has the heading 'The LORD's Faithless Bride". This chapter, more than any chapter I've ever come across, has convicted me of my adultery against the Lord. I don't think we talk about this enough today, so I would encourage all of you to take a look at Ezekiel 16 sometime this week.

In this chapter God is speaking to Ezekiel, depicting a gruesome, lovely, horrid story that is true in ever aspect. He starts in verse six by stating, "And when I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you in your blood, 'Live!' I said to you in your blood, 'Live!" He continues to describe how His love grew in beauty and at the age for love He said, "and you became Mine" (Verse 8). It goes on to describe a beautiful, intimate relationship that between a Lover and beloved.

However, in verse 15 it states, "But you trusted in your beauty and played the whore because of your renown and lavished your whorings on any passerby; your beauty became his." The story continues with the beloved giving everything to the passerby-- her jewels, garments, oil and incense, bread, and even her children as a sacrifice. The story reaches a climax in verse 31, "Yet you were not like a prostitute, because you scorned payment. Adulterous wife, who receives strangers instead of her husband! Men give gifts to all prostitutes, but you gave your gifts to all your lovers, bribing them to come to you from every side with your whorings. So you were different from other women in your whorings. no one solicited you to play the whore, and you gave payment, while no payment was given to you; therefore you were different."

This is a nasty picture, but I cannot tell you how true it is of us as believers, of myself in specific. I have the unconditional Love of the only Lover that will ever satisfy, and yet I run--yes, run!-- to anyone that I think will bring me greater pleasure. I don't wait to see if something better will be offered, but I turn and give whatever I can-- my time, adoration, gifts, talents-- to anything that looks good at the time being. We play the whore with anything we see as an idol in our life, anything that we put above God. This can easily be seen in relationships, but also in smaller aspects as finances, goals, and so on.

The sweet, sweet truth that the Lord grants us at the end of this chapter has always brought such comfort to me. Verse 59 and following, "For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, yet I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish for you an everlasting covenant... I will establish my covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the Lord, that you may remember and be confounded, and never open your mouth again because of your shame, when I atone for you for all that you have done, declares the Lord God."

Even after all of that, all of the prostitution, God still chose to remember His covenant with His bride. And He remained faithful, even while she was unfaithful. 2 Timothy 2:13 says, "If we are faithless, He remains faithful--for He cannot deny Himself". In the Old Testament, God used the word "hesed" to describe His love for us-- loyal, steadfast, faithful. That is His love for us. As it can clearly be seen, this love has nothing to do with our performance or our love in return. He loves us unconditionally, that means NO MATTER WHAT. Can you fathom a love that big? That strong?

"And I will betroth you to me forever. I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness. And you shall know the LORD."-- Hosea 2:19-20.

"I have loved you with an everlasting love, therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you."--Jeremiah 31:3.

Wow, that love is big. That love is for you and for me, today!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

New is better than Old

"New is better than old."

Sounds like something car salesmen and guys at the Genuis Bar would say to anyone walking in the door.

This statement is often debated inside the crowded parameters of my cranium. The debate is very similar to the much anticipated political debates which occur every four years. It's not similar in the fact that one silver-haired, middle-aged man in a suit passionately talks crap about one or two other middle-aged men in suits. No, my brain is not that large. It is similar in the fact that when the dust settles, nothing has been settled.

When I try to figure out if new is better than old, it comes down to my pride. I think old cars are better than new ones because I have an old car. I would say that the old way my hometown was is better than this new town I hardly recognize. My new hairstyle is much different than the look I sported in junior high, leaving me longing for the days of old. The new technology with cell phones continues to blow my mind, hoping to never remember the old designs. New perspectives challenge my old ways of thinking. My old job was more demanding physically, but my new job challenges me mentally. Old friends are easier to talk to than that new "friend" in the elevator. New socks smell better than old socks, but I still like to feel the crunch between my toes.

So, basically I have decided it's a draw.

New is sometimes better than old.
Old is sometimes better than new.

But this is not the case when it comes to the fuel for life - spirituality - God decides the outcome of my internal argument. There's no room for discussion. He has the final say and it's better than anything I could come up with anyway.

There's no passage in the Bible where Yahweh says "New is better than old" but He spoke through a couple of dudes who wrote some stuff down for people looking for a right way of living. These two guys were the kind of guys you would remember after hearing words come out of their mouth. Passionate like those politicians. Isaiah and Paul clearly communicate the reality that new is better than old.

After ranting for about forty pages, Isaiah pours out his heart to the Lord. He acknowledges the rebelliousness of his people - a group of folks that God was especially passionate about - a rebelliousness that would break the heartiest of hearts. In the midst of this reality check (ch. 64 of Isaiah) he points out how God prefers new rather than old.

To do this, Isaiah uses an analogy that has stuck out to me for a while now. In Isaiah's words, "But now, O Lord, you are our Father, we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand." (Isaiah 64:8) If you've never seen the artistry of a potter at work, let me tell you, it's obvious that when using clay, new is better than old.

Now Paul is a different story. In his little letter to some friends in Phillipi, he pours his heart out too. Instead of admitting how horrible he had been, he tells the truth which consists of a really good report card in religiousness. If getting into the gates of heaven were a matter of what we did, Paul would be first in line, having come from a past of near perfection.

It is right after recognizing how awesome he is that Paul writes this, "But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14) Even after having been the best of the best, Paul sees that his old way of life won't even compare the new life with Christ.

The new life is made possible through Jesus' death and resurrection. By taking the punishment for our sin on the cross, He paid the penalty that we all deserve. Three days after dying, Jesus walked the streets of Galilee with His closest friends. His new life had some scars, but they allow us to move on from our old life.

So, where are you landing today?

Are you content with the old life that sin has shaped?
Are you looking forward to new life lived with Christ?

Sunday, July 24, 2011

You are Mine

"But now thus says the LORD, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: "Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you....Because you are precious in my eyes, and honored, and I love you."
--Isaiah 43:1-4

Did you catch all that? Go back and read it again. not only does God tell us that He has called each of us by name, He calls us His own, that we're precious in His sight, honored, and loved. And to prove this to us, He lived and died for us!

However, I think a lot of times we focus on how much God loved (past tense) us. But this is not written in the past tense; it does not have a timeline on it. God says that He loves us, now--this very day! What I love about this passage is that He says "when"-- not "if"-- we go through trials, He will be with us. What a way to prove His love for us each and every day. God has promised us that He will never leave us, nor forsake us--He will never abandon, desert, or give up on us.

God loves each of us in a real, special way, such as a husband would love his wife. He knows all of us, and still desires that intimacy. But He has guaranteed hardship to come in our life. Many times I think that's the most powerful way that He brings me closer to Him, and I'd assume He works the same in each of your lives as well. He allows us to suffer, because we find strength and perfection in His name. And in the midst of all of this, He never leaves our side. He allows us to cling to Him while we walk through the fires and wade through the rivers, because He's right there with us, and so much stronger!

So wherever you are right now in life, take comfort, God is there as well. He has called you, and you belong to Him.

"Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore He exalts Himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for Him."
--Isaiah 30:18

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Lakeside Living

The beach is buzzing louder than a beehive at harvest. The aroma of sunscreen indicates that the Banana Boat may have capsized close to shore. Sunglasses cover wide-eyed, love-struck teenage faces. Shrill screams precede the painful slap of a sunburned boy's back after a failed attempt at a front-flip. Boy chases girl across the sandy beach - she's a state champion sprinter - so she stays just out of his reach. Lifeguards turn the color of a turkey at Thanksgiving.

Everyone seems to be loving life.

Below the surface of every body on the beach, there is more to the story. Smiles are often perfect masks used to cover the feelings of neglect, shame, and loneliness. Infants are a little more willing to show their true feelings. Middle schoolers quickly pick up on the art of acting like everything's O.K. By the time high school is a mere memory, most kids are professionals when it comes to putting on the "right" face. This skill is accidentally taught to kids by the adults closest to them.

Reality hit me faster than the mercury climbed in Minnesota yesterday.

Every single person at that beach has a story. Some are hurting. Others laugh everyday. Some people lie awake at night worried beyond belief. There are those who haven't smiled in days and those whose cheeks are permanently creased because of the fake grin that fools friends. Every single person at that beach needs Jesus.

Jesus loved the lake.

One particular dude who spent a lot of time at the beach said this about Jesus ...

"And the Word (Jesus) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
(John 1:14 ESV)

The guy from Nazareth, the one called Christ spent a lot of time with people who frequented the most popular lake in the area. Jesus showed up at the lake and let people know the promise that they could be forgiven of all the sin in their lives. Jesus knew normal people by name. He continued to show up where people liked to hang out. His promise was later understood a little more clearly when the families from the beach saw him hanging on a tree and buried in a rich guys grave. Emotions were as mixed up as the sand between a little one's toes on the edge of lake Galilee.

That previous promise was later understood to mean that the man who dwelt among them, would now dwell within each and every person who believed his words.

If you are reading this and believe what Jesus taught us about the glory of God that is "full of grace and truth" - if you are reading this and wonder why the lake is some important - listen up. In Hopkins, MN the local beach is the place to brush shoulders with sinners. I've been blessed with the opportunity to move into this community with the purpose of sharing the truth about who Jesus is with young people here. Oddly enough, that means I can spend a good amount of time at the lake like Jesus did with his friends. Don't stop now.

You have the Holy Spirit in you. There are people everywhere around you who are searching for love. God's love is limitless and always available to all people. When even one sinner returns to Daddy's loving arms, all of heaven throws a party. You live someplace unique.

There is at least one person you come in contact with on a regular basis who will benefit for eternity if you - you who has Christ in you - will take the time to listen to his/her story. Then, tell them how the Greatest Story ever told has forever changed your story.

Sunday, July 17, 2011


I've just recently declared war on my bedroom. My goal for the summer is to completely strip my room of everything but what I want to take with me as I look to moving out for good. Not an easy task, let me tell you. This evening as I listened to Needtobreathe blasting from my speakers and sifted through my closet, I found old notebooks filled with my name in front of my old crushes last name, vocabulary words, and algebra equations. I found old clothes that haven't fit me in five years and pictures from elementary school that filled my mind with memories of the "good 'ol days". But I also found trophies and medals from basketball, softball, and piano. I found my high school letter that I was so proud to fill up with different awards. And suddenly, I found that all of these were meaningless.

At the time, these awards seemed to be all that mattered. I would long to return home from a basketball tournament with a trophy in hand, or to score a perfect 5 at my piano festival. As I went through all of these this evening, they brought back good memories, but they didn't end up in the "to keep" box. They ended up in the garbage.

As I tossed these awards away, I couldn't help but think of Matthew 6:19-21
"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also"

What are you placing your treasures in? Remember, not everything is going to end up in the "to keep" box. Money, clothes, friends, cars, or whatever else may try to steal your attention cannot travel with us to eternity. But a relationship with the Lord Most High will!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Coming Home

The crazy thing about living as a disciple of Christ is coming home. At the end of the day, no matter how messy I've made my life, Jesus is always watching and waiting to see if I'll be coming home. Many people know the story of the prodigal son. That story strikes me in so many ways. I often see myself as both of the sons in the story, but more often the "prodigal" one. After all these years I finally looked up in the dictionary the word "prodigal." Now, the word prodigal tends to be used in terms of spending money, using up material goods in an outrageous fashion, and wasting the riches that are freely given to someone.

I haven't had the opportunity to take the family fortune and squander it on wine, women, and water parks (Praise God!) but I have been the prodigal son countless times before. The most priceless riches given to any one human being would be God's grace given to me - a dirty rotten sinner. What do I do with this wealth of patience, second chances, and undeserved delight?

I waste it.

My days are filled with my own selfish thoughts, thinking about what will bring me the most benefit, and trying to fulfill my momentary desires for self gratification. At the end of the day, all I can do is crawl home to Dad. He's waiting for me with a new pearl snap shirt, a clean hat, and a large pizza from Mooses Saloon about to throw a party because His crazy kid came home.

Monday, July 11, 2011

The LORD at work

A couple of months ago, I ran across a pray of Paul's written to the church in Ephesus. Paul's prayer become my daily prayer for our youth group girls here in Beulah:
"I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ . . . " (Ephesians 1:19-20)
This past week, I was humbled to watch some of results of my prayers. As the Word was preached through many Godly men and women at the FLY Convention, the Holy Spirit was working. He was softening hearts and opening eyes to the hope of the calling of Christ, the richness of the glorious inheritance that we have in Christ, and the unsurpassing greatness of God's power. What an amazing thing to see take place. How humbling it is to realize that there is nothing I myself can do to bring our students to that place of brokenness, realization, and salvation. Only the Lord can do that.

And praise Him that He does indeed work!
"Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it . . . " (Psalm 127:1)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Gorgeous Rocky Mountains

It's the end of day 3 here at the Free Lutheran Youth Convention 2011 in Estes Park, CO. Surrounded by the glorious Rocky Mountains I am constantly reminded of the Absolute Splendor of God. God is here. He is wanting to move in each of us. 
Today I was blessed to meet with all of the other blog authors for lunch. I'm so thankful we were all here at FLY this week and able to spend time together over a meal in fellowship. Praise the Lord!
My mind is so full of things I could share with you right now. If you are interested in listening to or watching the evening sessions from the week you can go here:
As I sit and reflect on the week so far a combination of two thoughts have struck me. The first is: "The uncomfortableness that God's Word brings is a good place to be. Its what you do with it that counts." The second is an analogy used with legos. When you buy a lego set you follow the instructions and put the legos together, but you don't just stop there. You also break those legos back down and rebuild them up. We are like those legos before God. 
 As I think of these two thoughts I see a connection. We have times when we need to be broken down and then built back up by God, but it can be uncomfortable. Both that uncomfortableness and process of being broken down so we can be built back up comes from being in the Word of God. 
Which leads me to ask myself:
Are you in God's Word? 
Are you uncomfortable? 
Do you need to be broken down? 
Do you need to be built back up? 
What will you do to make it count?

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Blessed be Your Name

Many times we don't realize how much we really appreciate anything until they are taken away from us. Yesterday, 150,oooish people were without power in the Mesa area for 1 to 10 hours or so, depending on the location, which of course included my house. Normally, this wouldn't be so bad - if you're not in the Valley of the Sun! Air Conditioning is a necessity in 110 degree weather! As I was toasting on my couch, I was thinking of how thankful I am for electricity, AC, and the ability to see in dark places without windows! But I was thankful for friends who let us stay at their house who had power for a little while to chill. We got our power back 6 hours later, thankfully, but this song, especially the line from Job, has been my prayer and praise today.
"Blessed be the name of the Lord,
Blessed be Your glorious Name.
You give and take away, you give and take away,
my heart will choose to say, Lord, Blessed be Your name."
There are plenty of other times where bigger and more significant things are taken away from us, but God's ways are greater than ours, and far beyond what we can see or comprehend. God is faithful, and provides for our daily needs - He deserves thanks and praise every moment of every day! And that is something we can be intentional in - to be thankful in every situation, no mater the circumstance. How do we do that? By fixing our eyes on Jesus, and letting His joy be our strength.