Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Normality of Culture

I like the definition of culture in this picture. It says, "Culture is the sum of all forms of art." Culture can be a beautiful thing, a part of who we are, a way to express ourselves. Culture can also confuse things for us.

How often do you think about culture? How about trends as they relate to culture? How often do you think about our culture's affect on Christianity? Does culture affect our mind set?

In Romans 12: 1-2 we are urged to not conform to the pattern of this world. "Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

How would you define culture? In part we probably aren't even aware of culture half the time, unless it's a hot topic or trend. I think culture in its simplest form is the societal norm. 

Culture is what is normal. 

Right now, today, in our culture it's normal to work 40 hours a week, listen to the radio on your drive to work, have a drink at happy hour, update your status on facebook, have premarital sex, watch a movie in the theater, go out dancing, drive through McDonalds for dinner, get a divorce, get remarried, go to college, get an abortion, pay your bills online...

Some of the items on the list above might not even strike you as cultural and some may cause you dismay. 

When I started writing this blog my thoughts were first sparked by the end of Acts 2, entitled The Fellowship of the Believers, verses 42-47, say "They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved."

These veres sparked the thought of the difference in community in the early church and community in today's church. Do you think that the culture of Jesus time affected the early church? Do you sometimes find yourself thinking they got it right, why can't we be like the early church? Probably a large part of the way the early church interacted was due to the culture of the day, but do you think we have lost a certain sense of Christian community in not adopting a like wise culture now?

Do you ever question if your convictions are grounded in Biblical truth or swayed by current cultural opinion?

Biblical truth remains the same. Culture fluctuates, shifts and changes through out time.

Think how often a parable takes on deeper meaning when we understand the culture of the time. Jesus told well known stories (normal stories of the day) with a twist. He pulled from current cultural understanding to get his point across.

I'm curious where our Christianity fits in our current culture. It's so easy to be caught up in the cultural tide. Do we start to confuse normal with right? 

Pause: Slight disclaimer, I am not saying that because it is normal it is wrong. I'm not saying that because it is part of culture it is wrong. I'm asking if we mix wrong in with right because certain things become a normal part of society.

Do we let certain cultural beliefs sway our Biblical opinions? I think we do. Again Romans 12:2, says "Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Perhaps Christ knows how easy it is for us to jumble certain accepted societal norms with Biblical truth?

What do you think?

Monday, August 29, 2011

A little tongue talk

I don’t know about you, but I sure am grateful to have a tongue. Think about it. A tongue helps us speak, swallow – and probably most noticeably and to some the most important – it allows us to taste. Praise the Lord for taste buds, eh? But lately, I’ve been convicted with the sharp magnitude of the tongue’s danger.

There’s a pretty familiar section in James (3:1-12) that compares our tongues with bridles on horses or rudders on ships. Small parts – but a powerful part that controls the direction of the entire vessel. James also says that both fresh water and salt water can’t come out of the same stream; so too blessing and cursing can’t come out of the same mouth.

But, the warning regarding the danger of the tongue isn’t just limited to James chapter 3. Here are some verses that have convicted me the last couple of months regarding my speech, my tongue, and how I am using it:

“The one who guards his mouth preserves his life; the one who opens wide his lips comes to ruin.” – Proverbs 13:3

“He who restrains his words has knowledge . . .” – Proverbs 17:27

“He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles.” – Proverbs 21:23

“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment.” – Ephesians 4:29

“Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire and greed, which amounts to idolatry . . . in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. But now you also, put them all aside: anger, malice, slander and abusive speech from your mouth.” – Colossians 3:5, 7-8

Unfortunately, the Lord doesn’t rank or categorize sin. No one sin is worse than another – all are equally disgusting in the sight of the Lord. The sin of gossip is often listed right alongside sexual immorality and murder. It’s easy for us to talk about others . . . to share what we heard, what we saw, what we experienced. And, if we honestly look at ourselves, we kind of like it when we’re in it, don’t we? Sin unfortunately looks fun and harmless sometimes – but consider the power held in your words. Are your words glorifying to the Lord? Would you say those words with Jesus there? (And as a believer, He’s always with you, so. . .) Would you say what you want to say about that person in front of that person?

I think our moms were on to something when they told us, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Work in Progress

Are any of you like me? Do you ever have days when you look back at all your failures, shortcomings, sins? I had a few of those this week.

I think it's easy for us to get down on ourselves sometimes--to dwell on our past, especially when it is still effecting the present. While there is a time to have sorrow over our sins, we need to be mindful that when God forgives, He forgets. "As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us" (Psalm 103:12). That's pretty far!

During one such day, God brought me the song "History" by Matthew West, which reminded me that everything that I've done that I regret and wish I could take back is gone, it's history. And while some of those choices do still effect the present and consequences might linger on, there's such a great promise that God isn't finished with us quite yet. Just today I was brought to Brandon Heath's song "Wait and See":
"There is hope for me yet, because God won't forget all the plans He's made for me. I have to wait and see. He's not finished with me yet."

What a glorious promise! Sanctification (the process of becoming holy in the world's eyes, as opposed to justification: the immediate holiness in God's eyes) is something that will continue until the day we enter into eternity with our Father. The process isn't going to be completed on this earth. While to some that might be rather grim news, but to me this is such a sweet promise because I know He still wants to work in my life.

Philippians 1:6 says, "And I am sure of this, that He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ".

Friends, He has begun a good work in you! And He will not stop working in your life until He's done. I don't know what any of you struggle with in your past, but leave it there. The blood of the Lamb is more than enough to cover all your mistakes, regrets, everything. And take heed to the promise that God isn't done working. I'm sure many of you have heard the old saying, "God loves you just the way you are, but He loves you too much to leave you that way."

Yesterday is history, leave that in the past. Look at today and what He's doing in your life; He's not finished with you yet!

Friday, August 26, 2011


You know how your mouth feels when you’re parched? That dry, cotton-mouth feeling? When absolutely the only thought on your mind is “water, water, water.” It’s miserable. Recently, my heart was painfully dehydrated from insufficient intake of Christian fellowship. My heart was weak and hurting. I was miserable.

My Powerade? A road trip to Lubbock, Texas--where just over a year ago I left many precious friends with whom I have walked through some of life’s greatest joys and trials. Driving into the gorgeous West Texas sunset, I asked the Lord to guide conversations during my visit over the next three days—to bring me/others encouragement and Himself glory.

I was not prepared for the unique way in which the Lord would work to refresh my spirit. The contents of hearts were spilled on breezy front porch steps, beside a sparkling pool, on a leather couch, across a dinner table, in the front seat of a car, in the Discount Tire lobby, and in Cracker Barrel over mounds of maple-syrup-drenched pancakes.

Vulnerability with others isn’t easy. It can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and humbling. Taking off our mask and allowing someone to see the raw us--our tears and snotty noses, our insecurities and hurts, our addictions and besetting sins, our fears and “why God” questions--that’s hard. But that’s exactly what the body of Christ is called to--transparency. I’ve never experience such mutual transparency as I did on this recent trip. Arriving at such a level of trust and intimacy in a relationship takes time, but the rewards are many.

Driving back to Dallas, reflecting on my trip, I couldn't help but feel as though some sort of miracle had just transpired. Mutual transparency quenched my thirsting heart.

1) In sharing, my weaknesses, struggles, and sin come to light. As I pour out the contents of my heart, lies separate themselves from truth, much like fat rising to the surface of broth. Although humbling, this is cleansing and healing (James 5:16). In sharing these sensitive areas of our lives with godly friends, we invite comfort, counsel, accountability, and intercessory prayer.

2) In listening, my focus suddenly shifts from self to others. My own sorrow shrinks as my friend’s burdens reach my ears and heart. The “woe is me” track (that’s been playing for weeks on repeat in my head) is interrupted and replaced with compassion for my hurting friend. I am suddenly preoccupied with ministering instead of being ministered to.

Having both shared and listened, we have mutually opened our hearts to each other--we have shared our burdens. My weight is no longer as heavy, because my friend is helping carry the load (Gal. 6:2). In knowing each others’ personal details, we are equipped to pray specifically and find ways to serve one another. (I Thes. 5:14)

3) Although God is at constantly work in my own life, it’s oft times easier to see this evidenced in a friend’s life. Like looking in a mirror, I identify with her root issues (lack of trust, faith, love, etc.). I am encouraged to know I am not alone in my struggles; I am strengthened with testimonies of how the Lord is working in/thru her weaknesses (II Cor. 1:3). Witnessing this miracle reminds me that our good and sovereign God is indeed sanctifying her (and me) and bringing Himself glory through every detail of our lives.

Being transparent requires humility. We must let down the pseudo walls of perfection we’ve erected and reveal the real us. Much like a wound (our sin), the shirt sleeve must first be rolled up and the bandage removed before a wound can be analyzed, cleansed, and treated. There’s a place for the bandage--we need not walk around revealing our deep wounds to the world. But there is a place (need!) for intimacy in the body of Christ if we long for sanctification. The cleansing may bring pain, but the end is healing--encouragement, hope, strength, and a deepened friendship.

-Karyn Ballmann

*Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. James 5:16
**Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Gal. 6:2
***Admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all.
****Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” II Cor. 1:3-4

Thursday, August 25, 2011

No Pain. No Gain.

Starting a new routine hurts.

This week the pain was felt physically for me with my new routine. My brain is a physical thing isn't it? Wrapping my thoughts around what this semester - this entire next year - will hold has been one heck of a task. Juggling school, work, relationships, and my own person will make me look like a one man circus if done properly. If I fail, it'll probably hurt. After that, it's time to rework, rethink, and restart a new routine. Which, inevitably will hurt.

Part of the pain I felt physically because of my new routine was felt in my legs. While my brain pain came from thinking about stuff that is absolutely essential, the leg pain is optional. If we were to get into a dialogue covering pros and cons of travel options, you may think my opinion is that leg pain is essential. But, I honestly have a choice to ride my bike to school or drive. There are plenty of reasons why I choose to pedal and feel pain. Read them here. However you look at it, I stand firm on the fact that starting a new routine hurts.

For some, the new routine includes the absence of a boyfriend or girlfriend.

Others feel pain when life's routine changes with their new job relocating them far away.

There are folks who feel pain when the alarm goes off as they wake up for some quiet time.

Statistically speaking, most people can't handle the pain of starting a new exercise routine.

With the birth of a new child, the up-at-random-hours routine doesn't feel awesome.

Financial routines that are responsible seem to hurt the pocket book at all times.

As the old saying goes though - No Pain. No Gain. The same can be said about life with Christ. Sometimes it's through the most painful and tragic circumstances that one grows closest to Jesus. There's nothing better to gain than a more intimate relationship with the one true God. For many teenagers, myself included ex post facto, waking up for church on Sundays is worse than pulling teeth. Do I see the gain in that routine now that I look back? Yah sure you betcha!

This could go on and on, but my new routine hurts. Therefore, I will stop typing and go to bed. But first, think about this:

What new routine might bring you some pain but offer significant gain to your life?

Running Anyone?

Have you ever run a race? Think of the way running feels. I imagine this conjures up a variety of images and feelings. On one hand running is exhilarating, exciting, freeing, dare I say fun? On the other hand its hard work, dirty and tiring. 

We run for all sorts of reasons. We run for sport, exercise, speed, to get somewhere fast, and even to get away. Regardless of why we run we usually have a purpose and a goal in running.

There are several references to running the race in the New Testament. Most of us are probably familiar with the concept of running the race as a comparison to Christian living. I've always liked this analogy because as a cross country runner in high school, it's such a clear depiction of the Christian life for me. Preparation for a race takes daily effort, perseverance and endurance. Our faith walk could also be called an endurance run. 
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 says, "Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."

Hebrews 12:1-3 says, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."

When I read these verse I'm reminded of my cross country training; daily running 5 to 7 miles, calisthenic exercises and lifting weights to strengthen muscles to prepare for our weekly races. I'm reminded of the importance of hydrating all day long before practice and races, of stretching before and after running, of warm ups and cool downs. I'm reminded of being part of a team that rooted for and encouraged each other. I'm reminded of the sense of triumph and accomplishment at crossing the finishing line. I'm reminded of the pride in knowing you ran a good race and finished strong.
Our Christian life walk is so similar to this. It takes daily practice and perseverance. Running is hard. Even for a seasoned runner it can be work. But when we work at it daily by being in the Word and spending time in prayer we develop, tone and strengthen our muscles and that makes us and our run stronger. We are a part of a team of believers and the fellowship and encouragement of our teammates is vital to our run as well. We have a finish line to cross and a finish line to encourage others to cross.

My encouragement to you today is to run a good race with Jesus as your focus and an eternal goal set before you.

God's blessings upon you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Crazy Obedience

Noah. Abraham. Jacob. Moses. David.

These are just a few of the men who the Lord used in mighty ways for the advancement of His kingdom on earth. But I have the opinion that when they answered the call of the LORD and were obedient to that call, many around them found them to be crazy. Here’s a portion of what is recorded in Hebrews 11 regarding some of these men –

“By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of righteousness which is according to faith.” (vs.7)

“By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going. . . By faith Abraham, when he was tested, offered up Isaac, and he who had received the promises was offering up his only begotten son; it was he to whom it was said, ‘In Isaac your descendants shall be called.’ He considered that God is able to raise people even from the dead . . .” (vs.8, 17-19)

And, Moses, “By faith, he left Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king; for he endured, as seeing Him who is unseen. By faith he kept the Passover and the sprinkling of the blood, so that he who destroyed the firstborn would not touch them. By faith they passed through the Red Sea as though they were passing through dry land . . .” (vs.27-29)

These are just a handful of men who displayed crazy faith in the LORD. I mean, think about it. When God told Noah to build the ark because He was going to send a flood to destroy the earth – it had never rained before . . . ever. But that didn’t seem to hinder Noah’s obedience. He kept right on building – probably while a nation mocked him. Abraham was called by God to go, but the Lord didn’t even tell him where he was going. But that didn’t hinder Abraham’s obedience. He went. Abraham was even willing to offer his one and only son on an altar as an act of obedience to the Lord. Moses had faith in God when all around him, the Israelites complained, fought, and cast blame. Despite all this, Moses’ obedience was not hindered.

The LORD often calls us to that which is crazy in the eyes of the world; to the things that don’t make sense. No matter how illogical the call seems through the worlds eyes, if the LORD calls you to it, will you be obedient?

Friday, August 19, 2011


The LORD appeared to him from afar, saying,
“I have loved you with an everlasting love;
Therefore I have drawn you with lovingkindness.”

Jeremiah 31:3

God's love is always there, even when ours isn't.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


I heard a great sermon a few weeks ago. The underlying theme: Forgiveness. Listen to it here. It's easy to be angry. It's hard work to forgive.

A question a friend and I discussed after the sermon was: Do we forgive out of obedience or do we need to have feelings in forgiveness too?

On one hand, we are called to forgive, so it is an act of obedience. On the other hand if we still harbor anger, resentment, bitterness, etc., have we really forgiven?

So what is it really to forgive?

What do you think?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

God's Greatness

I just got back from camping for a week in Jedidiah Smith State Park, which is located within the boundaries of the Redwood National Forest. What can I say? Those trees are amazing! The whole week I was there I was told over and over again by the Lord to just enjoy the trip I was on. For some reason I was finding it hard to do, but by the time the week was over I coul gladly say that I did enjoy it and it was amazing.

We were given the opportunity to do many different things, but the things that I enjoyed doing the most were kayaking the river we were camped on, cliff jumping, hanging out on the beach, swimming, and listening to this guy sing at the state park about the life of salmon. The singing this was kind of weird, but my heart was awakened through it to the beauty of God's creation and the fact that I don't really know much about it and would like to learn more.

The first night we were there we took a walk to this section of the forest called Stout Grove, which is home to the biggest tree in that section of the forest and as we walked through that grove and other parts of the forest I was completely awestruck by what I was seeing. It almost seemed like what I was looking at was fake, as I had never seen the Redwoods before and my imagination really hadn't done it justice, and that night as I was laying in my tent spending some time in prayer and reading the Scriptures I was led to read Psalm 96 and the part that really ministered to my heart was verses 11-13, which say, "Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness." (NIV) As I read this, especially, "let all the trees of the forest sing for joy," it was easy in my mind for me to imagine and see how this could be possible because all week they were screaming out the greatness of God to me. I couldn't wrap my mind around the greatness of those trees...and I was looking at them! How much more so can my mind not ascend to the greatness of God. Glad I am that Jesus came in human form to be the perfect representation of who God is that we might be able to see a visible picture of the invisible God. In Jesus we can get a glimpse, though dimly, of who God is and long for the day when we shall see all things fully.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Not Content with Being Comfortable

I’ll be honest; I had a difficult time deciding what to blog about tonight. But as I thought over the last couple of days, storms were a prominent theme. Friday afternoon, I was on a boat in the middle of Lake Sakakawea with Jordan, a couple from our church, and three girls from our youth group. There was no getting out of the downpour; we tried to head for sunshine, but the storm seemed to follow us. We even spotted a little funnel cloud descending from the dark clouds. Then last night, an intense thunderstorm blew across the region, bringing with it 65 to 80 mph winds.

These storms reminded me of a Bible passage that has played a significant role in my life – Matthew 14:22-33:

“Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up to the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, ‘Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter said to Him, ‘Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.’ And He said, ‘Come!’ And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they had got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, ‘You are certainly God’s Son!’”

At the FLY Convention in 2004, the Lord used this passage to deeply challenge my faith. Although I was a believer in Jesus and was walking with Him, I was challenged to do more than just stay on the boat. The speaker that night at FLY pointed out that the other 11 disciples just watched the exciting, daring act of faith occur. She challenged us to not be like those disciples, but to be like Peter – to step out in faith to whatever it was that the Lord would call us to. And she reassured us that just as Jesus was there to catch Peter, He would always be with us to catch us when doubts and fears assailed us.

That night, I prayed a prayer I will never forget. I gave the Lord my entire self; I promised Him I would do whatever it was that He would call me to and go wherever He called me. I remember specifically praying that I would even “go to Africa if You call me”. Seven years later, it’s exciting and intriguing to see how the Lord was working in my heart even then to what He is bringing us to today.

So, where are you? Are you standing within the security and comfort of the boat? Or are you leaping over the side of the boat, jumping at the chance to exercise your faith in Jesus? Remember, no matter how intimidating the wind and the waves may seem, “If God is for us, who is against us?” (Romans 8:31)

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Brokenhearted. Heart split in two, three, four, five, shattered into a million pieces. 

We find ourselves brokenhearted because we face both pain and shame in this life. We are born into a broken world - a world full of sin. So we come broken before an Almighty God. Knees on the ground and head held low. We come needing to be put back together. Needing to be put back together for the times we fail in life, for the times we mess up and fall, for the times we slip and even for the times when we intentionally stray from God's will. Needing to be put back together for the things that are out of our control. Needing to be put back together from things like break ups, disappointments, arguments and the loss of a loved one.

Psalm 34:18 says "The LORD is near to the brokenhearted And saves those who are crushed in spirit." and Psalm 147:3 says "He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds."

The line "without You holding my heart I'm falling apart" from Royal Tailor's song Hold Me Together is such a beautiful picture of us in God's hands. (full lyrics) It's speaks so clearly of the restoration of the broken hearted.

So we come before the Lord with our broken hearts and he puts the shattered pieces back together making us whole again.

Today I'm reminded to let God hold my heart.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Pressing Needs and Good Deeds

First off, I feel like I owe some of you an explanation of some kind. My thoughts from last week got some people a little nervous and maybe even a little excited. To clarify, Jordan and I’s decisions I wrote about last week have nothing to do with leaving Beulah or attending seminary. So, apologies to those of you who may have lost sleep or burnt your hair with your curling iron.

Today, Titus became one of my favorite books in the Bible. Only three chapters long, I think we can glance over it far too often. Although there were many verses that both challenged and encouraged me, I was struck with how often Paul wrote of “good deeds”. In regards to the “defiled and unbelieving”, Paul says,

“They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” (1:16)

Paul encourages Titus that –

“In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds . . .” (2:7)

As well as encouraging him to

“Be ready for every good deed” (3:1).

Most convicting to me, however, was found at the end of chapter 3 –

“Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful.” (3:14)

Although I know that it is not my good deeds that grant my entrance into heaven or cloth me with the righteousness of Jesus Christ, I cannot help but be convicted by the constant admonishment of Scripture to be involved in good works. Jesus Himself said that we would be known by our fruits (Matthew 7:16, 20).

Pressing needs: like children eating rocks before going to bed in order to trick their stomachs into thinking they are full. Or mothers paying for their children to eat biscuits made from dirt. Or children and women being sold into slavery to satisfy the sinful nature. Or American children running away from home seeking refuge in a homeless shelter because their parents simply don’t care.

Believers, what are we doing about this? I don’t have all the answers, but I know that we have to do something. We must be active in meeting the pressing needs that surround us; it is not the job of the government or of the state. So, what do you think? Are we ready for good deeds? What good deeds can we be engaged in to show the world how deep and great and high the love of Jesus is?

“’I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.’” (John 15:1-2)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Let Us Run

I have a love/hate relationship with working out of any nature. This is problematic at work, as I do not have a vehicle to tot my three little kids that I nanny around to parks and the like. However, we do have a bike with a cart behind that I frequently (yes, at least once a day) squeeze all three kids into for a trip to one of the many nearby parks. I love taking them to the park, and feel great after such long bike rides, but every time we go I say to myself, "This is the last time we're going to the park." I had no idea how hilly Maple Grove, MN was until I started lugging around 100+ lbs of weight behind me on a bike! There's one park we go to that's just over half an hour away, and it has the steepest hill on it, which I dread each time. And there always seems to be something to obstruct my path-- such as construction signs down or sidewalks blocked off halfway through the block. It's during these times that I often think of 1 Corinthians 9:

"Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified." --(24-27)

The Christian walk is compared to a race here, in which there is discipline and hard work involved. It's not always going to be easy, such as the roadblocks I often find in my path while biking. And sometimes it might hurt, especially while going uphill and you feel as though you'd like to quit.

Do you ever feel that way? We're guaranteed hardships and trials in our life, but we're called to press on (Philippians 3). And do you know the wonderful thing in all of this? God gives us such as sweet, sweet promise:

"But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint." --Isaiah 40:31 (emphasis mine).

Friends, God will give you strength. He will give you His strength, which will not fail. So no matter what you're going through right now, no matter how steep the hill is or how many roadblocks you find in your path, rest in the promise that God will give you His strength to press on. And our wreath is imperishable, our prize is HEAVEN!

Just keep running.

Friday, August 5, 2011


I'm not saying that I have this all together, that I have it made. But I am well on my way, reaching out for Christ, who has so wondrously reached out for me. Friends, don't get me wrong: By no means do I count myself an expert in all of this, but I've got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward—to Jesus. I'm off and running, and I'm not turning back.

So let's keep focused on that goal, those of us who want everything God has for us. If any of you have something else in mind, something less than total commitment, God will clear your blurred vision—you'll see it yet! Now that we're on the right track, let's stay on it.

Stick with me, friends. Keep track of those you see running this same course, headed for this same goal. There are many out there taking other paths, choosing other goals, and trying to get you to go along with them. I've warned you of them many times; sadly, I'm having to do it again. All they want is easy street. They hate Christ's Cross. But easy street is a dead-end street. Those who live there make their bellies their gods; belches are their praise; all they can think of is their appetites.

But there's far more to life for us. We're citizens of high heaven! We're waiting the arrival of the Savior, the Master, Jesus Christ, who will transform our earthy bodies into glorious bodies like his own. He'll make us beautiful and whole with the same powerful skill by which he is putting everything as it should be, under and around him.

I have been thinking more about Heaven lately, and realizing how the importance of Heaven isn't emphasized today in the Church as much as in the past. This passage from Philippians 3 (the Message) sums up what our focus is to be as a Christian. I will let you read it and let God examine our lives as we do. But I encourage you to think about Heaven, and how that is THE Goal, we are WAITING for Jesus to return! Are we living it? It is easy to be focus in the right here and now, but when we focus on eternity, if we are going to Heaven and how many we will bring with us, it gives us a purpose, and more of an understanding of God's work in our lives. Run for the Goal.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

It's ALL about Who You Know

Someone once told me, a long time ago, that in life ...

"It's all about who you know."

Ain't that the truth?!

Trying to get a job? It's all about who you know.
Want to have fun on the weekend? It's all about who you know.
Looking for the girl of your dreams? It's all about who you know.
Need to get your car fixed, but you're broke as a joke? It's all about who you know.
Medical issues need assessed, yet you have no insurance? It's all about who you know.
You want tickets to the Justin Bieber concert? It's all about who you know.
Wondering where to go while wandering a foreign land? It's all about who you know.

This nugget of truth has helped me more recently than any chicken nugget on any dollar menu.

Beyond any employment opportunity.
Pushing past any social gain.
Further than any medical help.
Way more than any Justin Bieber hookup.

This principle - "It's all about who you know." - has changed my life.

Knowing Jesus is what it's all about. From the time I was tooting and scooting around in diapers until today, Jesus has been pursuing me. The same goes for you.

We are all created by the one true God, who came to this earth as a man (Jesus), and established the statement - "It's all about who you know." This isn't printed in some obscure translation of the Bible, but you can gather this fact by reading any portion of God's Word.

Jesus lived a life like any other man, except when tempted by the Devil, He did not sin. Rather than floating around all high and mighty, this sandal wearing son of God took the punishment for all sin. Rather than letting Satan hold Him down in death forever, He walked out of the grave three days later. Now, we all have the opportunity for this same Jesus to be the who that you know.

It really is all about who you know.

Monday, August 1, 2011

People Pleasing

I’m a people-pleaser.

I don’t like disappointing others; I don’t like the feeling that I have somehow let them down. In elementary school, I didn’t like when my teacher would give me that well practiced “look” that told me I had done something wrong. At home, I didn’t want to do anything that would majorly upset my father; I couldn’t bear to disappoint him. The day I told my boss at the lumberyard I would be quitting on July 1, I felt awful, like I was letting him down, giving him a reason to be disappointed in me. Yep, I’m a people pleaser through and through.

As I was reading through Paul’s letter to the Galatians awhile back, I was struck by a familiar verse. One that had been underlined for years:

“For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.” (1:10)

This verse has begun to speak to me more boldly in the past couple of days as I consider some rather significant potential changes that Jordan and I are facing. One of the changes may disappoint some people – some of them whose opinions I value very highly. But as we spend time praying over the decisions before us, I am pushed to the Word and to its truth. If the LORD calls us to make these decisions, then we must be obedient to Him – not to the world, to our friends, or to our family. We must be faithful to what He calls us to. No matter how ridiculous it seems to the world.

“’For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are My ways your ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:9-10

“Faithful is He who calls you, and He also will bring it to pass.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:24