Monday, April 30, 2012

In the Midst of Captivity

I have a couple of confessions to make; confessions that may appear to be very anti-Christian. Confession #1: I don't like the worship group Hillsong United. (I know, I know. Very anti-Christian. I promise that I love Jesus, though.) Actually, whenever Hillsong begins to sing on my Pandora radio station, I click the "dislike" button in hopes that Pandora will eventually get the message that I'd prefer my station to be Hillsong-free. Confession #2: I really don't like hearing Jeremiah 29:11 quoted. (I know, I know. Disliking a Bible verse = extremely bad.) Maybe I've simply heard the verse so often it's cliche to me and lost its meaning. Needless to say, when our guest speaker Pastor Todd Schierkolk began a sermon based on Jeremiah 29:11 yesterday morning, I was a little skeptical. But my skepticism didn't last long.

That verse so often written in graduation cards was spoken to an Israelite nation in captivity. The LORD has delivered His people into the hands on Babylon and He promises them that they will remain there, captive, for 70 years. 70 years. That's an entire lifetime. I don't know about you, but being in exile doesn't seem like fun. In fact, it's a situation that would cause me to question the Lord: "Why have You brought me here? What are You doing?" It is in the midst of this captivity, this time of trial, that the Lord assures His people - "'I know the plans I have for you . . . plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.'" (Jeremiah 29:11)

But what really struck me from Pastor Schierkolk's message came earlier in the chapter. The Lord instructs His people, the ones He loves and has placed under the control of an enemy nation to love them. To love those people who have made them exiles and captives:
"'Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf; for in its welfare you will have welfare.'" - Jeremiah 29:7 
Pastor Schierkolk compared this verse with what Jesus later declared the second greatest commandment: "'Love your neighbor as yourself'" (Matthew 22:39)

Maybe you wouldn't describe yourself as living in captivity. But maybe you're not thrilled about your present physical location - you would much rather be living someplace different, someplace where exciting things always seem to be happening and it's obvious to you that the Lord is working. Or maybe you find yourself more in an emotional captivity, in the midst situation that is rocky and full of pain. A place that you would rather not be in. Perhaps you find yourself asking the Lord, "Why have You brought me here? What are You doing?"

Whatever the case may be, I encourage you to remember the wonderful words of Jeremiah 29: 7 and 11. Israel probably didn't like being in captivity any more than you like the current situation the Lord has placed you in. And it probably wouldn't have been their first reaction to love the enemies they were living with or to pray for the nation of Babylon. But that is what the Lord instructed them to do. It is the same thing that He instructs us do.

So, wherever you are - whether you want to be there or not - remember that the Lord is in control. Seek the welfare of those around you: invest in them, show them the love of Jesus, pray for them -- even in the midst of captivity.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Foggy Paths

I have come down to the final weeks of my life here at the Bible School (Association Free Lutheran Bible School if you're unaware) and life seems to be moving forward at a rate I'm not sure I can handle. However, on  choir tour over the past few weeks I learned something very important. It wasn't through a great song or a powerful message--which are all good and I did grow through them as well--but God taught me this lesson through repelling.

Yes, I know. Little, cautious Kate went repelling. And boy oh boy was I nervous! As someone made sure I was all ready to go, I found myself asking what in the world I was doing. I'm prone to accidents, mainly concussions, so I could hear my parents (even across 4 states!) telling me to get down and stop fooling around. But the fact that it was new and exhilerating made me want to do it all the more! As I got onto the cliff where I would take the first leap, I asked Luke Long, "Am I going to make it?" He said he was 100% sure that I would, but upon looking down I had my doubts in his word. It was a foggy morning and the fog crept in all around you--you couldn't see anything! I didn't like not being able to see the bottom. But the one thing I held onto, the only thing I had to hold onto, was the solid, firm rock right in front of me. That rock wasn't moving, and it was the only thing that I could do to get to the bottom.

 Hebrews 11:1 says, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."

In life there aren't a lot of certainties; we don't even know what tomorrow will bring, or if it will come at all. But we have faith in Jesus Christ, the only One we have to hold onto, our solid, firm rock right in front of us. In the Bible, Jesus is called the "cornerstone" 11 times (Psalm 118:22, Zechariah 10:4, etc). This word literally means "lying at the extreme corner" and refers to the crucial stone that was laid in setting the parameters for a foundation. The cornerstone was everything. It was the firm, solid rock of a building.

This is our Jesus.

When life seems to be spinning out of control or you don't know where the next step is leading you as the fog is too thick, just look ahead. Look to Jesus.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your parths"-- Proverbs 3:5-6

Monday, April 23, 2012

An Abundance of Need and a Present God

The need for prayer never seems far away, does it? Scrolling down the home page on my Facebook account today, there seemed to be request after request for prayer. On Sunday mornings, as Pastor opens the floor to the congregation to share prayer requests, he is seldom met with complete silence. As I talk with my family, prayer requests of various types seem to abound. What's behind all this need for prayer? The simple fact that our lives are filled with sorrow. The truth that on this side of eternity, there will always be trials.

As I've often written before, the LORD never promised us a life of comfort and ease. However, that doesn't make the trials any less painful or difficult. And when they come our way, it's often shocking: we never imagine such trials happening to us. During such times, I think it's our human nature to ask the question, "Why? Why God?"

Although we may ask such questions and wonder what God's purpose is in our situation, He isn't surprised. And He is beyond capable to handle that which He places before us.
"Why do you say, O Jacob, and assert, O Israel, 'My way is hidden from the LORD, and the justice due me escapes the notice of my God'? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, yet those who wait for the LORD will gain new strength; they will mount up with wings like eagles. They will run and not get tired. They will walk and not become weary." (Isaiah 40:27-31)
Whatever trial you find yourself in the midst in - whether it's a medical difficulty, the pain of seeing a loved one walk away from the Lord, or seeing those you love in pain - I pray that you will find strength in the only One who understands the full extent of your pain. For whatever reason, He sent it your way. But He's not asking you to handle it on your own or by your own strength. May you recognize the presence of the LORD right beside you as you walk this journey. And may this experience be used to draw you closer to Him.

"O Lord, God of our Fathers, this day, let it be known that You, Lord, are God of the present tense. O Lord, Father of history, this day, let it be known that You, Lord, are present in a human event."

Saturday, April 21, 2012

What's in a Name?

I thank the Lord for giving me such an incredible older sister to love and mentor me. My sister's intimate walk with the Lord has encouraged and strengthened me in more ways than I can describe. Without her influence in my life I wouldn't be the same person I am today. This week I was challenged (very challenged) by a simple (very simple) email from the AFLC Home Missions desk of my beloved sister, Christie Friestad. As soon as it read it, I knew it was something I wanted to share in my Saturday blog post. It has remained on my mind all week and served to prompt me to greater trust in the Lord during moments of testing. I hope it blesses you in the same way.

Oh, and... Happy Birthday Christie!


What's in a God's Name?

Everything I need.

Grace. Comfort. Strength. Wisdom, Presence. Justice. Father. Hope. Salvation. Joy. Light. Peace. Truth. Life. Patience. Vision. Sufficiency.

Whatever I need in this moment, God says, "I AM."  (Exodus 3:14)

Looking to Jesus,
Christie Friestad 
Admin. Assistant, AFLC Home Missions

Monday, April 16, 2012


Over the last couple of months, Jordan and I seem to have acquired a cat. We've affectionately dubbed this feline "Butterscotch" because it fits the color of his fur, as well as the fact that he was once spotted licking up questionable butterscotch pudding remains from our garden. Butterscotch is supposed to live across the street from us, but he's often seen roaming the neighborhood. It's not uncommon for Butterscotch to perch in the tree in front of our house or squeeze through our back gate in order to come visit Jordan or I. To be honest, sometimes I think Butterscotch is quite pathetic. Cute, but pathetic.

Example of Butterscotch's somewhat pathetic nature: When our front gate is securely closed, he'll stick his little cat arm through first, knowing it's the first step in getting his whole body through. When that fails, he'll meow pathetically before attempting to stick his head through the small gap between the metal gate and the concrete sidewalk. When that fails, he'll again meow pathetically and attempt to stick his head through the two sections of the front gate. When Butterscotch finally realizes that he can't get through the gate, he'll simply look up at it - or at me standing in the back yard by the garden - and meow. And meow. And meow.

Despite the fact that I view Butterscotch's behavior as pathetic and humorous, I can't help but admire his perseverance. His drive to be with either Jordan and I. His realized need for love and attention. And then I ask myself: Do I have that same perseverance when it comes to seeking the Lord? Am I willing to go to great lengths to spend time with my Savior? Do I realize how desperately I need Him?
"One thing I have asked of the LORD, that I shall seek, that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the LORD and to meditate in His temple." - Psalm 27:4

"'Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it." - Matthew 13:45-46
I pray that I will be like Butterscotch: content simply to sit at the feet of my Master, finding joy in His presence.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Worth it All

"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Romans 8:18

A selfless mother willingly surrenders her body to the pangs childbirth, nurses her new baby every few hours around the clock, surrenders sleep, cooks and cleans when she is feverish, and trades 'me time' for changing diapers. She gives little thought to the career, friends, and pleasures she has left behind--because, more than self, she loves this child. Her child. A baby to love, to enjoy. A child to raise, to shake the world.

A loving admirer will drive great distances, devout large amounts of time, happily spend hard-earned cash, and do a great many other things outside his 'comfort zone' (penn poetry, pick roses, listen, listen, listen)--in pursuit of a woman who has captured his heart. He does so without thought of the costs because he the considers the 'prize' to be worth any possible sacrifice.

A diligent college student will burn the midnight oil finishing a writing assignment, spend his Saturday engaged in textbooks, memorize flash cards over a fast-food dinner, and willingly repeat this cycle semester after semester for 4+ years--because he loves knowledge and he longs for a signed diploma. He considers the recognition of his future title to be worthy of all he is sacrificing.

What then for a faithful Christian? If Christ be the prize, should not the cross (sufferings of this world) be borne willingly and joyfully?

"Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ." Philippians 3:8

Words and music by Esther Kerr Rusthoi

Oft times the day seems long, our trials hard to bear,
We're tempted to complain, to murmur and despair;
But Christ will soon appear to catch His Bride away,
All tears forever over in God's eternal day.

It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life's trials will seem so small when we see Christ;
One glimpse of His dear face all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.

Sometimes the sky looks dark with not a ray of light,
We're tossed and driven on , no human help in sight;
But there is one in heav'n who knows our deepest care,
Let Jesus solve your problem - just go to Him in pray'r.

Life's day will soon be o'er, all storms forever past,
We'll cross the great divide, to glory, safe at last;
We'll share the joys of heav'n - a harp, a home, a crown,
The tempter will be banished, we'll lay our burden down.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rain Fall

It rained here in So Cal today. Not a good midwest pour, just a fair shower this morning. I've been pondering rain this week, it's been on my mind, but not because of the forecast.

I was struck earlier in the week how we sometimes view rain in terms of a negative weather condition that inconveniences us. Yes when it rains you may get wet, it might slow your driving speed down or cause traffic, and perhaps even spoil your plans. However, is it really to be frowned upon when we NEED it?

Rain is vital, it nourishes, brings about growth and cleansing.

It makes we wonder how often we view inconvenience or difficulty in our spiritual walk as a negatively rather than blessing and something that brings about spiritual growth or cleansing.

Joel 2:21-24 "Do not be afraid, land of Judah; 
   be glad and rejoice.
Surely the LORD has done great things!
 Do not be afraid, you wild animals,
   for the pastures in the wilderness are becoming green.
The trees are bearing their fruit;
   the fig tree and the vine yield their riches.
Be glad, people of Zion,
   rejoice in the LORD your God,
for he has given you the autumn rains
   because he is faithful.
He sends you abundant showers,
   both autumn and spring rains, as before.
The threshing floors will be filled with grain;
   the vats will overflow with new wine and oil."

There is a scene in the second movie in the Sarah Plain and Tall trilogy, Skylark, where during a drought she takes the children to her home in Maine and it begins to rain. The children joyously run out and dance in the rain. 

How can you rejoice in the rain?

Monday, April 9, 2012

The Hiccups

Hiccups are an interesting phenomenon, aren't they? All of a sudden, normal breathing is rudely interrupted by a quick gasp for air - something you definitely weren't expecting only moments before. Sometimes, hiccups can be entertaining: like when I feel my 35-week old in the womb son rhythmically hiccuping. Other times, hiccups can be painful: like when you hiccup so hard it seems to tear off a layer from the back of your throat. And other times (perhaps most of the time), hiccups are just plain annoying: like when they won't ever go away.

Have you ever experienced a "life hiccup"? All of a sudden, normal life is shockingly interrupted by an abrupt event -something you definitely weren't expecting only moments prior. Jordan and I experienced one of these "life hiccups" the other day as a routine baby appointment turned into an all-day affair filled with ultrasounds, electronic monitoring of our baby, and lots of waiting to talk with the doctor. Although we looked to the Lord individually and together for our strength, peace, and comfort - there were still moments of uncertainty that were frightening and overwhelming. We were definitely not expecting the events of that day to occur; this hiccup took us by surprise.

These "life hiccups" remind me of truths I've found recently as I've been reading through the book of Isaiah. Although we maybe taken aback by a hiccup, the LORD never is. He knows exactly what is going to happen; He is never surprised:
"'Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned, so it will stand . . . For the LORD of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it?'" - Isaiah 14: 24, 27
Just as hiccups can sometimes be painful, so too our "life hiccups" can bring pain. But the pain never comes without a purpose:
"The LORD will strike Egypt, striking but healing; so they will return to the LORD, and He will respond to them and will heal them." - Isaiah 19:22
I am so grateful that the LORD not only has a plan and knows what hiccups are going to come our way but is also with us during those painful, frightening hiccups:
"Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me." - Psalm 139:7-10  
". . . He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you.'" - Hebrews 13:5
"When my heart was embittered and I was pierced within, then I was senseless and ignorant; I was like a beast before You. Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have taken hold of my right hand. With Your counsel You will guide me, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? And besides You, I desire nothing on earth. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. For, behold, those who are far from You will perish; You have destroyed all those who are unfaithful to You. But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord GOD my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works." - Psalm 73:21-28
So next time you're caught off guard by a hiccup, remember Who is in charge. Remember that He always has a plan. And rejoice in the wonderful truth that He is near -- no  matter what the hiccup may hold.

(In case you're worried: baby Langness is doing just great! The doctors were a bit surprised/concerned by how small he is, but everything has checked out fine. Praise the Lord!)

Friday, April 6, 2012

His Touch

There is a story about a little girl who proudly wore a shiny cross on a chain around her neck. One day she was approached by a man who said to her, “Little girl, don’t you know that the cross Jesus died on wasn’t beautiful like the one you’re wearing? It was an ugly, wooden thing.” To which the girl replied, “Yes, I know. But they told me in Sunday School that whatever Jesus touches, He changes.”

Lord Jesus, thank you for the cross. Touch me today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

The Glory of it All

This week, we celebrate the most important events in the history of our Christian faith. Unfortunately, like many other things in our walk with the Lord, this week becomes simply a recognition of days. We become busy with extra church services and clouded by the distractions of bunnies and eggs, of big meals and visiting family. Although our minds may know the reason for our gatherings and celebrations, our hearts have lost the wonder, the awe and the gratitude behind our celebrations.

"Oh, the glory of it all is He came here for the rescue of us all that we may live; oh the glory of it all! Oh, He is here with redemption from the fall that we may live for the glory of it all!"

However you may celebrate the events of Holy Week, I urge you to consider Him. Ponder who this Jesus is that gave of Himself, submitting to the Father's will. Wonder in amazed gratitude why He would go to such radical measures.

And rejoice in the glory of it all.

"For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. He is also the head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he Himself will come to have first place in everything. For it was the Father's good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him, and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross . . . and although you were formerly alienated and hostile in mind, engaged in evil deeds, yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach . . ." - Colossians 1:13-23 (emphasis added)