Sunday, July 29, 2012

Choose to Use Four-Letter Words

An obvious fact of life is that life itself is full of choices.

Some choices bring great amounts of joy.
Some bring undesired pain and suffering.
Some choices put you in dangerous situations.
Some get you to one side of the fence.
Some choices make absolutely no sense.
Some put you in jail.
Some choices bring a new found hope.
Some give you a mouthful of soap.

Many times making the choice to use a four-letter word results in a good ol' fashioned mouth washing. From now on, this need not be. The choices we make when concerning four-letter words may actually change our lives for the better.

Consider young children who choose to play. This choice is not made so he/she will be found rejoicing when it is time to nap. No. It is the time spent chasing butterflies and throwing dirt that brings joy to the heart of each young girl or boy.

How about a scenario often scene near the end of July. It's a blistering summer day ad the heat is unbearably hot. Making the choice to swim makes perfect sense. This choice is not satisfying because of the burning sensation your feet feel after stepping back on the scorching pavement. No. It is the breathtaking, refreshing feeling of jumping in the lake that brings you delight.

What about the cowboys in their tight jeans at the rodeo? As the two thousand pound kicking, thrashing, smelly piece of beef smashes up against the steel walls of the chute; the man with the hat chooses to ride. While there is a sense of relief when eight seconds pass and he's still alive; that is not the purpose. No. The bull rider thrives on the thrill and adrenaline with his hand strapped to the back of the beast named Fu Man Chu.

Maybe considering the developing intellect of college kids will help. With his/her ever-increasing vocabulary, it is not uncommon to see one choose two four-letter words at the same time. Can you say road-trip? Now, three stinky friends don't pour over maps, pack every valuable the own, and pile into a Honda Civic just so they can be back at home. No. It is the journey that makes the memory. Time spent together behind the windshield. Laughter laughed with a whole heart. Conversations kept close that will forever shape their forevers. It is in the middle of the beginning and the end where the story is created.

Speaking of being created, let's look closely at life.

After making a whole lot of something (see the Universe) out of a whole lot of nothing, God made a choice make man and woman in His image. As a result, there needed to be something to do during the day. So God chose to create work as a way to enjoy His creation. Then, to finish off His very good creating, He chose to invite His creation to take delight in stopping to rest. Did humanity do well with this? No. Selfishly stirring in pride and a search for power, a choice was made to sin.

But, God made another choice. Sin separated humans from God so He chose to bring us all back to Him. Jesus, who is God, chose to love. He laid down His life as the sacrifice that we needed to pay the price for our sin. Three days after dying, He rose from the dead and He is still alive today. Now, He wants us to make a choice.

When I chose to accept His free gift of love my life was completely changed.

As a result, I've been able to choose many other four-letter words making my life what it is today. About two months ago I made a choice to enter into a covenant with Emily as my wife. This choice has drastically impacted my understanding of God's sacrificial love for me. Each new day is a reminder to me of the choice I made to walk with Jesus.

Choosing Jesus' free gift of love is not the end but the beginning.

It might scare you at times, but at times it will bring peace.
It will take you places you've never imagined going.
It can put you in dangerous situations.
It might put you in jail.
It will get you on one side of the fence.
It may not always make sense.
It will probably fill you with a new found sense of hope.
It is unlikely that you'll get a mouthful of soap.

What four-letter word will you choose today?

Saturday, July 28, 2012


"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." Luke 2:19

In the opening session of my summer Bible study, the leader stated, "We should spend 50% of our time reading the Bible in meditative reading. Stop, listen, consider, and pray." What a challenge!

Romans 11:3 states, "Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!" Humans' finite reasoning makes it impossible to unlock the mysteries of Scripture. Without the Holy Spirit, searching and convicting hearts, it is impossible to appropriately apply the Law and Gospel to one's personal life.

Thankfully, Jesus promised the Father would send us a Helper, Holy Spirit to "...teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I [Jesus] have said to you," John 14:26. God has placed the greatest personal interpreter within His children! They need only appeal the Helper for guidance.

How then can Believers have a Mary-like heart, treasuring and pondering the treasures of Scripture? Firstly, personal devotions should be more than reading a few chapters in the Bible every day--Christians must read meditatively--stop, listen, consider, pray. Secondly, the Holy Spirit must be entreated to "guide you into all truth" (John 16:13). Thirdly, the "active, living Word of God" should be pondered (studied,  memorized, meditated on, prayed through, and discussed). These 'skills' will mature throughout the life of a Believer.

Next Saturday, we will take a closer look at specific ways to ready meditatively. Until then... daily seek to treasure and ponder the Word of God.

Friday, July 27, 2012

God's Grace, God's Strength

One way Grace is defined is as: "Appropriately, the free unmerited love and favor of God, the spring and source of all the benefits men receive from him." (from Webster's 1828 Dictionary) 

In Ephesians 2:8 it says that "God saved you by His grace when you believed." By God's free unmerited love and favor, our Awesome God saved us from the darkness of sin, from the fire of Hell, from eternal separation from Him when we believed.

But it goes on to say in verse 9 "And you can't take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." We have no credit in acquiring the gift of grace, the life of freedom. By nothing can we obtain salvation except through the gift which God gives freely. Not by things we do have we been saved, but by God's gift of grace. "For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago" (verse 10). In Christ we are a new creation, a masterpiece of God, and He has marvelous plans for our lives.

So the question for believers is do we really believe these statements? Do we believe that God has given each one the gift of salvation through His grace? The answer is found in our hearts rather than our heads, for we may know the answer should be, but our actions come from within. 

Each believer is given the gift of salvation by believing, and then from that point on allowing God to work in our lives as He establishes his plan for us, for we are His masterpiece. How then do we have the right to withhold that gift, or even doubt that it has been given to others? Christians are often bashed for how they treat others in judgment rather than love. As we look at the life of Christ, as pointed out in yesterday's blog, Jesus never condemned those who were living a "sinful" life, but invited them to the True Life. The ones He rebuked were the religious leaders, the ones who were "sin-free." 

Today as I examine my own life, I see a sinner who by God's grace has received Salvation through Christ. But I also see a self-righteous person who subconsciously, and even freely, condemns others who do not display a "sin-free" life. Christ died for everyone, and He works in everyone differently. Next time when I find myself judging someone, I pray God will remind me that we are both sinners in need of a Savior. Putting all assumptions behind, I pray I will have the strength to meet them where they are at: either bringing the message of Salvation to them, or encouraging them in their walk with Jesus. May I be Jesus to those around me, firmly saying I believe God's Word and I do not want to with hold His gift from others.  Will you join me in striving to be known as ones who loves rather than ones who judges - a follower of Jesus? Only by His strength, His sufficient grace, can it happen. 

"And so, dear brothers and sisters, we can boldly enter heaven’s Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. By his death, Jesus opened a new and life-giving way through the curtain into the Most Holy Place. And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God’s house, let us go right into the presence of God with sincere hearts fully trusting him. For our guilty consciences have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near."
(Hebrews 10:18-25)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Jesus, Friend of Sinners

Warning: This post may be controversial.

I'm going to be blunt with you: This week I heard of church members that were upset because they overheard a swear word a church picnic. They instructed the church's children's ministry to do better on discipline because swear words do not belong in the church. However, these children were unchurched. They came from broken homes with no knowledge of God whatsoever. They had never stepped inside of a church. Honestly, they came for the free food, because they might not get a meal otherwise. 

This broke my heart.

I want you to take a listen to the song "My Jesus" by Todd Agnew. 

My Jesus was a friend of sinners. He met the people where they were. He called them out of that lifestyle, but only after He welcomed them into His arms. He didn't judge based on where they were at the time. Take a look at His response to the woman caught in adultery in John 8: 
"Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground. But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.”
How often do we judge? We see others who do not live like us and expect them to shape up. We expect them to clean up-- wash out their mouth and dirty hands and put on their Sunday best-- before they step foot in our churches. Our clean, American churches. One of the verses of this song has struck me the most:
"Cause my Jesus would never be accepted in my church
The blood and dirt on His feet might stain the carpet
But He reaches for the hurting and despises the proud
I think He'd prefer Beale St. to the stained glass crowd"

I know these are harsh words. I know because they cut me to the heart, and I'm the one writing them. But Jesus met sinners where they were. He's probably the One that started the saying, "Hate the sin, love the sinner"...because that's just what He did. And that's not what we, as the Church, are doing. That's not what I'm doing.

I pray that we would be the hands and feet of Christ this week.

"Oh Jesus friend of sinners, break our hearts for what breaks Your's."
 --"Jesus Friend of Sinners" by Casting Crowns. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

R and R...

Two sermons ago my pastor gave a sermon titled, 'The Spirit, Relationship and Ritual'. It was an excellent look at the differences between empty ritual and true relationship with Jesus in the Christian life. The passage we looked at was in Acts chapter eight, the account of Simon the Magician. The main thrust of the sermon was; 'Ritual without relationship is empty magic, but ritual with relationship is where real life transformation occurs.'

I liked this sermon and it impacted me while I listened to it, but as I left the service, so did the sermon from my mind. Until a couple of days ago, when I was reading through my journal and came across a couple of things which I had jotted down. Here they are:

"Don't feel your way to action. Act your way to a feeling." - Pastor Justin Buzzard

"Don't idly read God's Word hoping it will magically impact!" - Me

When I read these two statements I was immediately reminded by the Holy Spirit of the sermon on Ritual vs. Relationship. And the thought entered my head, 'What in my claimed relationship with God is really just empty ritual?' 

I know in my life there are things which immediately come to mind, where I'm simply going through the motions, but am also not trying to go any deeper with them. They're just empty rituals. Like Simon, they are just magic tricks, for appearance sake.

I find this is true for many areas of my life. And lately God has been showing me just how true this is of me when I read His Word. His Word is effective and will not return void. But I haven't been doing anything to give it more than passing opportunity to impact me. 

Conviction hurts. I'm finding it also motivates though. I remember one of my teachers in Bible school saying "In the Christian's life, sin serves to point us back to God." It reminds us of our helplessness, and points us to Christ and what He has done. Thank You Jesus for that! And so as the Holy Spirit has illuminated areas for growth, I'm seeking to 'act my way' towards the feeling. Instead of hoping for 'magical impact'.

How about you? 
Are there areas in your life where you've slipped into empty ritual? Mere magic?

How can you move beyond the empty ritual, into full relationship induced ritual and real life transformation?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Painful Goodness

In less than half an hour, I will be taking 10-week old Ezekiel in for his 2 month immunizations. Three shots and one oral vaccine. I have a gross feeling in the pit of my stomach and am definitely NOT looking forward to seeing my little baby boy cry out in pain. Honestly, I'd rather not do this.

But I know it's for his own good. I'd rather see him in pain for a little while than suffer the consequences of a full-blown case of polio or hepatitis B. I'm learning that sometimes pain can be for my son's benefit.

As I think about my trepidation regarding Ezekiel's shots, I am reminded of what is written in Scripture:
"He disciplines us for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness." - Hebrews 12:10-11
We all face battles, struggles, trials. The Lord sends them for a purpose - for our good, so that we may share in His holiness. But do you think it pains Him to send those battles, struggles and trials our way? Do you think that as we cry out in pain, the heart of God is aching for us?

Just as I plan to cuddle with and comfort Ezekiel as much as possible during his time of pain, so too the Lord promises to comfort us during our times of pain.
"Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." - Matthew 11:28 
". . . Casting all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." - 1 Peter 5:7
Remember, although the LORD sends pain our way - He does it for our good. And He does not leave us alone to deal with it. He's with us every step of the way. Praise the LORD for that wonderful truth!

(And if you read this before 10:00 am, please pray for Zeke and I.)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

The Dark Lie Rises

"The Dark Knight Rises is full of folks pretending to be what they're not. Some wear their deception on their faces in the form of a mask. Some hide even that telltale sign.

But some—especially Alfred—have had enough of the fabrications and facades. He wants Bruce to set aside his black mask, move on and live again. "Maybe it's time we stop trying to outsmart the truth and let it have its day," he says.

The lie is eternal.

We don't think about lies as such, not at first. Rarely do we think about them at all. We don't build them to last or construct them with care. They are ugly, utilitarian things; lingual shields we forge with frenzied fury and cower behind when danger comes close. We think we need them to save what we treasure—reputations, friendships, careers—and then, when the danger passes, we try to discard them as so much scrap.

But we can't. Lies stick to us. We carry them with us—silent reminders of that moment of fear, that threat of disgrace. They stay with us always and sometimes grow, the weight pulling us downward as we become hunched, contorted, exhausted. It's the paradox of prevarications: After we form them, they form us.

We're left with a hard choice. We can try to unforge the thing, a delicate and dangerous duty. Or we can carry it to completion, until our last strength is spent and we are swept away, leaving only the lie behind."

The above excerpt from is a review of The Dark Knight Rises. This brief message greatly challenged me. What a great reminder of the 'wrongness' of lies, of the bondage of lies, and the end result of lies. With this realization fresh on my mind, I am asking the Lord to reveal to me where I am speaking lies--to myself, to others--whether in word, thought or deed. May you do the same and may we seek always to walk in truth.

"Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth." John 17:17

Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Much Trust?

Worms? Really God?

I've been thinking a lot about the 40 years of wandering in the desert for a while. The Israelites grumbled a lot. I mean, a lot. God was very gracious with them though, and continually held His patience and even blessed them during these years. One such situation was when they grumbled about food. So God rained down food; cool huh? This is one of my favorite miracles in the entire Bible, simply because it shows that God provided something so vital, so daily as the need for food. However, there's a part of the story that I don't normally think about. Take a look:

"And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted."  (Exodus 16:19-21 ESV)
The thing that really struck me is that God required them to only take what they needed for the day. They weren't even allowed to store the food to keep for the next morning. They had to trust that God would provide the manna again the next morning.

They had to trust.

A lot of times, it's easy to want to take things into my own hands. When it's things that I need, my daily bread so to say, I fear that if I don't take advantage of the situation, I'm not going to have what I need. I have this problem with money, jobs, relationships, etc. 
Am I speaking to an empty crowd here? Or do you get what I mean?

In the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples to pray, it says "give us this day our daily bread". That has always been a hard part of the prayer to be earnest about. Honestly, I'd rather say, "give me everything I'll ever need." Wouldn't that be great? But that's that faith. There's no trust.  God wants us to trust Him. Throughout Scripture God proves His faithfulness. He constantly reminds us of it as well, and pleads with us to just stop and trust:
"Cast all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you."-- 1 Peter 5:7 "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." --Philippians 4:6 

And friends, this trust--this faith-- is not blind. We have evidence that God has provided in the past. You can see that God is providing for you in the present. (Look at the clothes you're wearing, think of the food you've eaten today, how are you reading this post?) We can be assured that God will provide in the future. Whatever we need, God will provide. 

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! (Matthew 7:7-11 ESV)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012


Recently I awoke early in the morning, and after not being able to fall back asleep I got up and read from my Bible, and listened to various songs from artist Jadon Lavik. One of the phrases in the song 'Surrender' on his album 'The Road Acoustic' really hit me. It says,

"Helpless is right where You want me, and helpless is where I am free."

I don't know about you and where you are at in life, or your relationship with God. But in many ways in my life, I have felt helpless. And my natural, sinful reaction to this helpless feeling, is to whine and complain. To worry. Maybe you can relate?

The reality of our relationship with God however is, He is made strong in our helplessness. Think about it. Reflect on it. Praise God for it! When I am weak, He is made strong! Gospel. Good news. God at work.

As I did the other early morning, take time to reflect on just how helpless you are. Examine your weaknesses. But don't stop there! Move forward into reflecting on how they in effect enable you to more fully see God's strength, rely on it, and experience the freedom of being helpless. And praise God for it!

Here's to wholehearted helplessness!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Looks Are Important

In our backyard, Jordan and I have a fairly sizeable garden. In it you’ll find carrots, tomatoes, jalapeños, green peppers, onions, chives, spinach, lettuce, and peas. Not bad for gardeners with only three years’ experience, eh? However, you’ll also find the worst part: the rampantly growing weeds! In fact, I have a whole new understanding for the phrase “growing like a weed”.  After just a week away, we returned to a vast weed patch; weeds filling in the rows between vegetables and grown taller than our carrots, peas, lettuce, and spinach plants. When time is limited and the heat intense, it’s my temptation to simply chop the weeds down at the surface with a hoe rather than attacking them and pulling them up from their roots – where the real problem lies. Although I know they’ll spring up again quickly, at least my garden looks better. And looks are important. Right?

I’m afraid we can do similar things with our lives. Our weeds aren’t green, prickly, or ground covering – but sin. Things we know the Lord does not approve of; things He commands us NOT to do. They are selfish actions and thoughts, anger, a gossiping tongue, self-righteousness, lustful passions; they are movies and music that do not glorify God. They are things that should have no place in the lives of a believer.

When we decide it’s time to take care of the weeds in our lives, it’s easy just to clean up the outside, isn’t it? Because that’s what people see.  So to our self-righteous, self-preserving selves, that’s what matters. Looks are important. Right?

Jesus spoke up against this kind of behavior as seen in the lives of the scribes and Pharisees:
“’Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup and of the dish, so that the outside of it may become clean also. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.’” – Matthew 23:25-28
Unfortunately, Jordan and I’s garden will never be completely rid of the weeds that come back year after year, weeding session after weeding session. So too will our lives never be completely rid of sin. Praise the Lord that Jesus has taken care of the eternal penalty of sin for us – but while we’re on this side of eternity, we are going to struggle with sin. With our weeds. However, rather than simply chopping them down at the base to appear good to others – and maybe even to ourselves – let’s strive to pull them out at the roots. Pulling those weeds out at the roots takes work; so too will working to rid of those sins in our lives. It's a work we won't finish this side of eternity -- but let's press on, never giving up, and striving to "'be perfect, as [our] heavenly Father is perfect'" (Matthew 5:48)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Being A Nut

Last week I wrote a little blurb (some may as well call it a burp) about what I would be writing in the next few weeks. Well, that will be on hold for a couple weeks at least. The reason being?

I need to spend the week being a nut.

For those of you who know about Young Life; that will be understood easily.

For those of you who do not know about Young Life; google that crap.
(editors note: Young Life does not equate to crap...)

For all of you who are reading this, your time will be much better spent reading the words of the late, great Rich Mullins. This paragraph that he wrote back in 1991 has hit my in the face multiple times as a reminder of my own journey with Jesus. May it do the same for you and may it present you with an opportunity to pray for me as I spend the next week being a nut at Young Life camp with kids.

"I am a Christian because I have seen the love of God lived out in the lives of people who know Him. The Word has become flesh and I have encountered God in the people who have manifested (in many "unreasonable" ways) His Presence; a Presence that is more than convincing - it is a Presence that is compelling. I am a Christian, not because someone explained the nuts and bolts of Christianity to me, but because there were people who were willing to be nuts and bolts, who through their explanation of it, held it together so that I could experience it and be compelled by it to obey." 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Bloody Truth

Do you ever get irritated at God while reading the Old Testament? 

Have you heard the story of Uzzah before? Let me paraphrase quickly (read it for yourself in 2 Samuel 6): David was bringing the Ark of the Covenant back to Jerusalem--carrying the 10 Commandments. There were two men that were walking beside this cart, Uzzah being the one to follow behind. Suddenly, the oxen stumbled and the ark was jarred, so Uzzah did what anyone might do--he reached out to steady it. However, God killed him on the spot. 

Honestly, this story has kind of frustrated me in the past. It has always seemed rather obnoxious of God to kill a man just for touching the Ark, especially when he was probably saving it from the dirt and mud that covered the ground beneath. However, lately this story has become of importance to me. 

Blood is required to draw near to God.

I recently read a book called The Explicit Gospel which had a section based on this idea. Author Matt Chandler writes, "Sin if filthy; therefore, sinners are filthy. Consequently, in the Old Testament He kills a lot of people. Sometimes it gets pretty wild. The sons of Aaron try to draw near to Him, and He kills them. The Ark of the Covenant starts to fall over and a man grabs it and God kills him. This was because you cannot be sinful and get near to God. It doesn't work. God's holiness will incinerate you." 

This statement stands true throughout the Old Testament. If we take a look at the Tabernacle (and later the Temple)--where God's presence dwelt-- the Holy Place was the outer chamber where the sacrifices were made. However, the Holy of Holies was just beyond, separated by a thick veil, through which only one day a year the priest could enter through and offer a sacrifice to the Lord. In fact, the people of Israel were so afraid of this day that they would tie a rope to the priest's foot in case anything went wrong and he died inside, so that they would be able to pull him out instead of having to wait a whole year with a dead body laying inside the Tabernacle. This was serious business. The people knew that God was holy, and to enter into His presence, blood would have to be shed.

Scene change, enter Jesus. This is my favorite part! You know how when you hear something over and over and over...and over again, it kind of just gets redundant? I'm sad to say this, but that happens with the cross for me at times. I know Jesus died for me, but it just becomes old news. However, this week I taught at Vacation Bible School at a church in Minneapolis, and I don't know if the students learned anything, but I sure did! As I told the story of Jesus' death on the cross, one part really jumped out at me:

"And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split." --Matthew 27:51

That curtain separated the people from the presence of God. But when Jesus died on that cross, when He died for US, that barrier--that sin--that separated us from God was torn. It's gone. There is no barrier. Christ tore it away. We now have access to God in an intimate way through the blood of Jesus. 

So really, nothing has changed. Blood is required to draw near to God.

Christ's blood.

"But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ."--Ephesians 2:13

The holiness of God hasn't changed or diminished in any way. The chasm is still too wide for us. We're still too sinful to be in His presence. But Jesus has made a way, and through Him, we draw near to God. Through Him, we are made holy. 

"So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through His own blood."--Hebrews 13:!2

         Listen to "Nothing But the Blood" sometime this week. It's a good one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fresh Off the Concrete Truck

Over the last few weeks, I've had the incredible opportunity to help out my local congregation as we go through a complete parking lot remodel and expansion. It's been incredible because not only have I learned a lot about how to form curbs and sidewalks out of concrete. I've also been able to get to know a lot more of the men in my church, in a way I don't get to on a Sunday morning sipping coffee.

Beyond those things, I've also experienced just how heavy and hard to maneuver concrete can be. It's kind of obstinate stuff. But yet, when it's fresh out of the truck, it is still able to be formed and molded. It may take quite a bit of work, as my forearms can attest, but it is possible.

Once the concrete has cured and solidified however, it can't be molded. In order for a change to take place, the concrete has to be broken apart, removed and new, wet concrete poured in. As I've had ample opportunity to think about concrete in the last few weeks, I've realized how similar to concrete I can be.

If I am continually interacting with God through reading His Word and prayer, I'm like concrete, fresh off the truck. Wet and moldable. I might not always respond easily to God's molding and shaping, but I remain moldable.

However, there are times in my life, when I'm not communing with God as I should be. I let busyness, or neglect, or a host of other things, dictate my relationship with Jesus. And at those times, God is definitely still working... But often, because of my own heart attitude, I'm more like concrete which has been hardened by the Summer sun. And in those times it takes God's loving jackhammer to mold and shape me.

As I've been reflecting on my work with concrete, God has been pointing to areas of my life and asking me, "Are you fresh off the truck in this area?" "How about this area? You're looking a little cured and solidified there."

How about you, right now?

Are you fresh off the truck and moldable?

Or have you allowed things in your life to cure and solidify?

May God grant each of us to continually be 'fresh off the concrete truck'.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Awesome Things, or Just Some Things?

Today, Ezekiel met one of his great-grandmas for the first time. As Zeke laid on the floor, kicking, grunting, and talking away, I got a chance to catch up with my Grandma. We talked a little bit about my Kindle - which absolutely fascinated Grandma. After hearing how such a small device could hold hundreds of books, and how those books are downloaded onto the Kindle, Grandma exclaimed, "Isn't that something!" 

Technology is pretty crazy, isn't it? And maybe not just technology, but science. Think of all we have and can do because of them: because of cruise control, we can drive our car without having to continually push on the gas; because of airplanes, we can sit in a chair in the sky to get to a faraway destination; because of Skype we can both see and talk with someone halfway around the world. Phones no longer have to be connected to the wall, TVs can respond to the sound of your voice, and large boomboxes aren't the only way to have music on the go. 

But isn't it sad how normal most of these things are to us now? I don't know a world without air conditioning, cars that can only travel 25 mph, or medical vaccines. Those younger than me don't know a world without the internet, cell phones, or iPods. As awesome and exciting as technology is, it's easy to lose the awe, isn't it? Because many of us have grown up with these things, we don't think twice about living without them; it's hard to imagine our world without them. We become so accustomed to the awe-some things in our world that they just become some things. 

Unfortunately, I think this is also evident in our spiritual lives. Growing up the in the church and with the Word around us is a wonderful blessing - but I think when we hear about Jesus raising Lazarus back to life after four days of death; when we hear about how God parted an entire sea and caused the Israelite's to walk across it on dry, not muddy, ground; when we hear about God shutting the mouths of the lions when Daniel was hanging out with them - I think we lose the awe. The LORD has done awesome things throughout history --but sadly, after hearing them so much, the awesome things He has done just become some things. 

I was struck with a short phrase from the book of Acts this past week during my devotions. It's found in Acts 2, following Pentecost and Peter's sermon which the Lord used to bring 3000 people to Christ. The believers "were continually devoting themselves to the apostle's teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer" (Acts 2:42). And -- 
"Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe . . ." (Acts 2:43) 
A sense of awe. Realizing the magnitude of Jesus' death and resurrection on our behalf. Recognizing the miracles that take place because of the power of the Lord. Understanding that what we read in Scripture isn't just a fairy tale - it's real. To live with daily awe . . . do you think that's how the Lord desires us to live?

O LORD, fill me daily with a sense of awe: awe for who You are, for what You have done - both in history and in my life. Forgive me for growing accustomed to the incredible, awesome events recorded in Scripture. May I live each day humbled and awe-struck.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Wrinkles and Ripples

For some, like myself, the process of putting a pen to paper is meditative. 

It brings clarity.
Time slows down.
Life receives an evaluation.
Film is developed in my photographic mind.

As my eyes focus on the squiggles filling up the lines, I picture myself staring at the glasslike surface of a high mountain lake.

My forehead wrinkles are but ripples on the water.
The teeth creating my smile blend in like smooth stones rolling up against the shore.
A splash wakes me up, and I'm back to reality.

Over the past five weeks life has been turned upside down, I've been shaken; my pockets emptied onto the ground. Slowly but surely, coins are picked up.

The process has been both exhausting and restful.

And there has been much to write about.

For the next six weeks I will share with you, the reader, some of the thoughts that God has clarified in my mind.

You will see into some dimly lit corners of my heart.
You will hear the songs of joy overflowing from my soul.
You will get to know me a little more.

And hopefully you will more fully know Jesus.

I will be writing about four main areas of life that God has used to shape me.


Looking forward to taking you on this journey I've been along lately. 

Thursday, July 5, 2012

'Cause baby, you're a firework!

BOOM! Fireworks... I love them.

I was blessed to be able to go to fireworks two nights in a row this week, and it really got me thinking: why do you love them so much, Kate?

Really, fireworks seem kinda silly if you step back and look at it. But the more I thought about it, I realized I like them because the lights are so vibrant against the black sheet of night. I love the unnatural contrast. I love the beauty, the noise, the joy.

This realization led me to another: that is what we are called to be.

Isaiah 60:1 says, "Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and His glory will be seen upon you."

Christ is the true light of the world, and at His ascension, He passed that torch onto His followers. Notice: that light comes from God. We know that light, we know Jesus, and we know that the world indeed is dark.

Again, Jesus says in His Sermon on the Mount, You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:14-16)

He calls those who believe in Him the light! A light shines brightest in the darkness, and we have been placed in a dark place. Even the weakest of lights can be seen in complete darkness, unless it is hidden. Unless it's "under a basket". 

As I stated above, God is the One who provides the light. It's not something we have to muster up on our own. With Christ as our personal Savior, He infuses us with that light. He shines through us! How awesome is that! This is something that happens, not something we do. God does it through us--this is what is called "gospel". The good news that we don't have to work (law). 

When Christ shines through us, the world cannot help but notice. Fireworks light up the whole sky--that's what light does in the darkness. It shines. Let Jesus shine in and through you today!

"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it." (John 1:5)

                (I apologize for the title--that song has been stuck in my head for a while and I cannot escape!)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Church Involvement in 7 C's

God has been doing a lot in my life to teach me and prod me about involvement in His Body. Specifically in regards to the local congregation.

In reflecting on what He's been teaching me, and calling me to, I've come up with seven 'C' words to describe what I believe Church involvement should look like.

Connect - Get connected with a local group of believers.

Commit - In our present age, committing to just about anything is contrary to the norm. It's messy, and it's hard. But if we desire to see change and growth, we need to stop hopping from church to church, and commit to one local group of believers.

Congregate - Just because you've connected and committed, doesn't mean you are regularly engaged with fellow believers. This too is vital. Regularly congregate with those whom you've connected with and committed to.

Communicate - Share what God is doing in your life, and learn what He's doing in the lives of those whom you congregate with.

Care - Show those whom you've connected with, committed to, congregate with, and communicate with that you care for them. This can take many different forms. But in general, it's just loving on them. 

Contemplate - At the place where you've connected, committed, and regularly congregate, the Word of God should be constantly integrated. And so, as you hear it, read it, and speak it; contemplate it. Don't just let it go in one ear and out the other. 

Carryout - To be in a setting where we have connected, committed, congregated, communicated, cared, and contemplated is a rare thing in this world. So go ahead and carry it out with you in whatever you do and wherever you go in life. The Gospel is shared by us carrying it out, from within the church walls, into the world in which we live.

Here's a quote to ponder from Pastor Justin Buzzard of Garden City Church; 
"There's a difference between going to church and being the church all week long."

What are ways in which you can better Connect, Commit, Congregate, Communicate, Care, Contemplate, and Carryout your Church involvement?

Monday, July 2, 2012

O Lord, Listen and Take Action

With various tragedies striking our families, friends, church families and acquaintances, I’ve been doing a lot more praying lately. Praying for those who have lost loved ones expectantly and others whose expected death is heartbreaking to deal with. Praying for those who have experienced blows out of the blue. Praying for those who struggle on a daily basis to continue in the midst of the grief and difficulty surrounding them.

This morning, as I was reading through Daniel 9, I was struck by Daniel’s prayer to the LORD on behalf of his people, on behalf of Israel. Daniel’s prayer is offered up during the time of Israel’s 70 year captivity in Babylon – although I’m not quite sure where in the timeline of that captivity Daniel is. However, the chapter begins with Daniel noting the Lord’s promise to Jeremiah that Israel would be slaves for 70 years. Then, Daniel begins his prayer. He praises the LORD for who He is; Daniel admits the sin of his people, recognizing how far they had fallen from what the LORD asked of them; he asks the LORD to remove His wrath upon Israel.
“So I gave my attention to the Lord God to seek Him by prayer and supplications, with fasting, sackcloth and ashes. I prayed to the LORD my God and confessed and said, ‘Alas, O Lord, the great and awesome God, who keeps His covenant and lovingkindness for those who love Him and keep His commandments, we have sinned, committed iniquity, acted wickedly and rebelled, even turning aside from Your commandments and ordinances. Moreover, we have not listened to Your servants the prophets . . . Open shame belongs to us, O Lord, to our kings, our princes and our fathers, because we have sinned against You. O my God, incline Your ear and hear! Open Your eyes and see our desolations and the city which is called by Your name; for we are not presenting our supplications before You on account of any merits of our own, but on account of Your great compassion. O Lord, hear! O Lord, forgive! O Lord, listen and take action!’” (Daniel 9:3-6, 9, 18-19)
I encourage you to take a moment and read all of Daniel’s prayer. What truly stood out to me was verse 18—Daniel’s recognition that his supplication would not be heard by the LORD because of any good work he or any Israelite had done. His supplication would not be heard by the LORD because Daniel deserved to be heard. His supplication would not be heard because it was required that the LORD hear his every request. Daniel recognized and admitted that the LORD would hear his supplication because He is a compassionate God. A God who loves His people. A God who is concerned about that which concerns His people.

The same is true for us as it was true for Daniel. We too must recognize that it is not our good works that we have done that causes the LORD to hear us. The LORD doesn’t hear us because we deserve to be heard. He doesn’t hear us because it’s a requirement on His part. Our God hears us because He is a compassionate God. A God who loves us. A God who is concerned with that which concerns us.

We might not always feel that the LORD hears us. We might not get an immediate answer to the requests and supplications we bring to Him. But rest assured – He hears. He answers. All in His timing. Remember, Israel was captive for 70 years. That’s a long time. But during those 70 years, the LORD did not abandon His people. No matter how long it takes for your captivity and pain to end, He will not abandon you or leave you to fight your own battle. The LORD is a compassionate God who hears you when you call. May that truth and the promises in His Word give you the strength you need to endure your captivity.