Friday, September 28, 2012

The Bigger Picture

Last Saturday was the first official day of Fall; one of my top four favorite seasons.

To celebrate this joyous occasion, I went on a hike with three of my favorite people. Our destination: Firebrand Pass and the summit of Calf Robe Mountain in Glacier National Park.While on the trail, I kept snapping photos of the fantastic scenery brilliantly painted by the colors of fall. 


More than once, I found myself stooped low to the ground, captivated by the brilliant colors before me. 

During those "down to earth" moments of photographic genius, I was missing something. 

The Bigger Picture.  

All too often in life, I forget The Bigger Picture. 

My heart gets stuck on one confusing verse in the Bible. 
My mind focuses on one story, therefore sending me spiraling by the gravity of cheap grace. 
My heart gets wrapped around one sentence of wrath. 
My feelings flare up during debates about differing doctrines loosely defended by one passage.
My relationship with Jesus becomes hostile while turning Good News into my own Levitical Law. 

You've been there too? 

What happens when we consider The Bigger Picture? 

Take some time to survey the entire scope of Scripture; Genesis through Revelation, Law and Gospel, Creation to Christ's Return, and every nugget of necessary truth in between. Take a look at the Triune God; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Marvel at the redemptive story that started with Adam and Eve and continues today. Stand in awe of the magnitude of your Creator while living and breathing in His Creation. 

Back to that hike ...

Down on one knee looking intently at the details, I was forgetting what was above, beyond, bigger, better. My eyes were focused on something great, but there was something greater to see. 

James, Jenny, and Emily hiking ahead.
To my right, the endless view made me believe I could actually see North Dakota. 
To my left, the colors covered the slopes rising to the ridge of Calf Robe Mountain.
Straight ahead, the trail traversed the mountain and carried us above treeline.
Straight behind, the aspen groves poked their yellow faces through the pine tree forest.

The Bigger Picture is a more enticing view.

Life is busy. Our tendency is to focus on what we can see here and now. The nastiness of our sin is easier to see than the beauty of forgiveness freely offered from Christ. Stress is often avoided when stepping back to consider the surrounding circumstances. Worry walks away when we take time to stop.

While the details may capture our attention, for good or bad, there is always more. 

If you're stuck in sin, start looking at your Savior. 
When you're happy as a kite in the sky, be aware of the dangers looming close by. 
As life seems to sink in all around you, remember the many times a lifeboat has been thrown just in time.

The Bigger Picture brings us back to reality. 
The Bigger Picture shows us where we are going.
The Bigger Picture includes more than just me, myself and I. 

The Bigger Picture is created by our God, for our God's glory. 

Now the view from the mountain top, that's a whole different story. 

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Insight From the Packers Game

"That's not fair!" --The sum of nearly every Facebook status I read on Monday night after the Seattle Seahawks beat the Green Bay Packers. Honestly, I don't like the Packers, so I was okay with it. But in reality, it was a bad call.

If you don't like football stay with me here; there is a point. In recent conversations I have heard many people question the love of God in allowing there to be injustice and evil in the world. I feel rather silly doing this, but this is an excerpt from a song called "Truth" by Lecrae.
"You look man, "Some people say that God ain't real 'cause they don't see how a good God can exist with all this evil in the world. If God is real then He should stop all this evil, 'cause He's all-powerful right? What is evil though man? It's anything that's against God. It's anything morally bad or wrong. It's murder, rape, stealing, lying, cheating. But if we want God to stop evil, do we want Him to stop it all or just a little bit of it? If He stops us from doing evil things, what about lying, or what about our evil thoughts? I mean, where do you stop, the murder level, the lying level, or the thinking level? If we want Him to stop evil, we gotta be consistent, we can't just pick and choose. That means you and I would be eliminated right? Because we think evil stuff. If that's true, we should be eliminated! But thanks be to God that Jesus stepped in to save us from our sin! Christ died for all evilness! Repent, turn to Jesus man! " 
This is the best answer I've ever heard to this question. As humans, we long for the perfection that Adam and Eve once had in the Garden of Eden. We have an innate feeling for wanting justice, but we have no claim to it.

Thankfully, God isn't done with us here though! Last week I briefly left you with a quote that said, "I love that God doesn't destroy evil, but that He restores it." God chose not to be fair, because fair would mean eternal separation from Him-- hell. We would all be damned because not one of us could live up to His standards of perfection--they're pretty high!

Did you catch that? God chose not to be fair. Salvation -- life through the blood and resurrection of Jesus -- is not fair. That's not justice. That's grace and mercy: getting what we don't deserve and not getting what we do deserve.

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life."

Aren't you thankful we don't have a "fair" God?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Pray, then Act.

Last week I wrote about approaching God in silence, seeking His will above our own. Then last weekend I heard a quote which challenged me further in my prayer life.

"Pray. And then put feet under your prayers."
- Pastor Brandt's Grandpa

As Christians we're called to pray. To take everything to God in prayer. What struck me from this quote though is, often we stop there. We don't put any action behind what we pray for. And granted, sometimes we are supposed to leave it before God. But I think many times, God gives us the ability to do something towards answering, or putting feet under, our prayers. Think about it.

How many times do we ask God to minister to someone in need and then not do anything to minister to their need ourselves? Is it possible as Christians, we often use prayer as a copout? I know, in my own life I have.

Please don't take this as me saying, 'Don't pray, just act.' 
Instead hear, 'Pray, then act.'

I believe if we do this, we'll see God at work in and through us much more frequently!

"i'm all you need"

The more I get to know Jesus the more I fall in love with him.  With his ways, his purposes, his ideas, his strategy, his love for people, his passion, and his humility, but more importantly than that, I simply fall in love with him, as a person, as a God, more and more.  His love for me has extended so far and the more I experience it in my life, am changed by it, am overcome by it, my love for him grows.  There is a song out right now by Bethel Music called "Come to Me"  and a line in the song says, "Come to me I'm all you need, come to me I'm your everything."  That's Jesus for us.  He is the bread of life and the water that satisfies our deepest thirst.  

I've also been thinking a lot lately about how Jesus has called us and as his own he describes us as many things, but namely I have been thinking how we are the body of Christ.  We are his hands and feet.  The ones he uses to reach out to those around us who need to know him.  Who need to be encouraged, who need to hear the voice of the Lord speak, who need his arms wrapped around them.  What a blessing to be able to speak life into someone who's heart is failing, to bring a meal to someone who is going through a tough time, to be a listening ear to someone who just needs to know someone cares. 

As the body of Christ, how are you gifted; how are you called?   I would love to hear about it in the comments below...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Beneficial Struggle

Over the past week, Ezekiel has mastered the skill of rolling from his back to his tummy. It seems like every time I lay him down on his back, he whips himself onto his tummy to view the world from a different perspective. Rolling from his tummy to his back, however, is a different ball game. Occasionally, Zeke's been able to roll himself onto his back; but most of the time, when he's had enough of that "tummy time" business, he begins to whimper and to fuss. As a mom, it's hard to see my baby struggle like that - but I can't always come to his rescue. I've got to sit back, encourage him, and see how's he going to handle his struggle. Because if I instantly responded to his first whimper of help, Zeke would never learn how to roll over. Maybe never  learn how to crawl. The struggle - hard as it may be - is beneficial.

The other day, as I was watching Zeke scootch his knees under his tummy in an attempt to roll onto his back, as I heard him whimper a pathetic "help me whimper" -- I couldn't help but compare the situation to our relationship with the Lord. All too often, we find ourselves in difficult situations; and like my 19-week old, sometimes we put ourselves in those situations. Perhaps, although it is difficult for Him to watch His children struggle, to watch them hurt, to watch them sin -- the LORD can't immediately come to our rescue either. Just as it's good for my little Zeke to struggle in order to learn and to grow; maybe it's good for us to struggle in order to learn and to grow as well. The struggle - hard as it may be - is beneficial.

I've often heard it said that it is in the times of trouble, adversity, and hardship that we grow closest to the LORD. And the wonderful thing is: He doesn't leave us to struggle alone. He is with us - each and every difficult step along the way.
"'Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'" - Isaiah 41:10
When you face a hardship: remember who is holding you up. The Creator of the universe. The Savior of souls. The God who raises the dead. Is there anything too difficult for Him? Is there any pain that He cannot handle for you? Is there any hardship that He cannot see you through?
". . .We were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us . . ." - 2 Corinthians 1:8-10
"'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.'" - 2 Corinthians 12:9 

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Apply God's Word

"But don't just listen to God's word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves." (James 1:22)

God wants us to apply His Word to our lives, but have you ever been sitting, staring at your Bible, wondering how in the world it can be applied to your life?

Below are some application-orientated questions to ask one’s self when studying God's word. Asking these questions is a way to meditate on God's word, and to make it personal to your life. Merely reading God's word will not help us to grow in our relationship with God. We need to meditate on it, and do what it says. It is a discipline to develop that we may grow close to God and be more like Christ.
When reading God's word, ask these questions:
Does this text reveal something I should:
o    Believe about God?
o    Praise or thank or trust God for?
o    Pray about for myself or others?
o    Have a new attitude about?
o    Make a decision about?
o    Do for the sake of Christ, others, or myself? *

Also, pick a verse to memorize, and while memorizing it, think of ways you can an do apply it to your life.

I pray that you would grow in your relationship with God, and that these simple questions would help you become more like Christ!

*Points came from Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney

Saturday, September 22, 2012

When Your Secret Sins Aren't So Secret

"He [David] saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful... So David took her... and he lay with her... And the woman conceived...the thing that David had done displeased the Lord." II Sam 12

Look at the sequence of events that takes place in this story: a wrong desire (David wants a married woman), moving toward the desire (he has her brought into his presence), giving in to the desire (he sleeps with her), reaping consequences (she's pregnant), sense of guilt (God condemns David's sin). 

Can you see this pattern in an area of your life? Have you recently gone from desire... to "toeing the line"... to yielding? Are you left with the heavy burden of guilt and shame? 

And yet, the story doesn't end there. It gets worse! The prophet Nathan is sent by God to deliver the following news to David: 

"For you did it [your sin] secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun.'" David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die."
Brief pleasure often leads to long regret. Does it not? David's secret sin (which he thought he had covered every track to keep hidden) is being brought into broad daylight for all to see. Oh the shame! And not only that, but the consequences are costly--his son's life. Can you identify?

Satan is the great deceiver; he twists truth. 

  • Truth: God's mercy is always extended, to cover our sin. Remember, Nathan told David, "The Lord has put away your sin. You shall not die." What forgiveness! And yet, this was not enough to release David from repercussions of his sin.
  • Lie: God's forgiveness releases us from the consequences of our sin. Remember, David was also told, "because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die."
So how are we to respond when the guilt of our sin has been lifted, but the shame and consequences follow us? Let's look back at the story of David.
And the Lord afflicted the child... and he became sick. David therefore sought God on behalf of the child. And David fasted and went in and lay all night on the ground... [when he] understood that the child was dead... then David arose from the earth and washed and anointed himself and changed his clothes. And he went into the house of the Lord and worshiped." II Sam 12 
All the sudden you find yourself exposed--the sin you thought you had so-well hidden is brought to light. You're overwhelmed with shame. What should be your response?
  1. Confess your sin.  "I confess my iniquity; I am sorry for my sin." Ps. 38:18
  2. Accept the Lord's forgiveness"I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins" Is. 43:25.
  3. Plead for God's mercy over the consequences of your sin. David stated, "While the child was still alive, I fasted and wept, for I said, 'Who knows whether the Lord will be gracious to me, that the child may live?'" II Sam. 12:22
  4. Worship the Lord because He has removed your eternal guilt. "Restore to me the joy of your salvation." Ps. 51: 12a; We have joy, even in the midst of shame, because He has removed our eternal guilt! "There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." Rom. 8:1
God takes our ashes (that which we have made a mess of) and somehow makes it beautiful. He is working--yes, even in the ugly, stinky consequences of your sin--for your good and His glory. He will not leave you alone, but will walk with you--even through this. THAT is reason to worship our Savior! THIS is the power of the cross--bringing hope, even in shame. Cling tightly to the cross... and worship.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Constant Change

Today is a much anticipated day.


Because it's Friday, Friday gotta get down on Friday?


Because the iPhone 5 was released today.

People have been on the edge of their seats for a long time waiting for this day. Siri has whispered quietly to so many people, "Patience is a virtue." Now the day is finally here.

But what will people say tomorrow?

There is bound to be something new, something "better", and something everyone will want to have. Technology is always changing and our expectations are rearranging.

This is not new.

Consider for example, these excerpts from "The Way" a 1972 translation of the Bible at the beginning of the Gospel of John.

"We live in an exciting world. We who are you in the 20th century balance atop a surfer's wave of accelerating action. This restless, pulsating action affects our lives in many ways ... scientific advances are changing the way we shop, travel, learn, and relax.

 Projections about flat TV's, computer regulated traffic, air travel to anywhere in the world in forty-five minutes, pocket computers, cities below the surface of the sea - all seem like science fiction, yet reputable scientists are predicting them. But as we read and hear about the widening stream of these innovations, we often get strange concepts about God's role in all these changes. 

Somehow, in our modern times, we get the idea that God was able to put together trees and animals and mountains, but that he really can't keep up on such things as jet travel, new cars, satellite TV, contemporary music, and fantastic computer advances. Yet God set up all the principles by which our electronic age functions.

The magnificent truth - for each of us who really cares to find it out - is that the Person who masterminded all creation was once breathing, sleeping, and eating on this planet Earth just as you and I are: and we can get acquainted with him!" 

From there, the encouragement is to carefully read the first five verses of the book of John, consider what is going on in the world around you, and see how Jesus relates to you today.

"Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is - nothing exists that he didn't make. Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness - and the darkness can never extinguish it." (John 1:1-5 The Living Bible)

Reading these two things completely blew my socks off.

I am writing this bare foot.

Forty years after this was written, we take for granted most of the technology that was anticipated.

Even more, how much do we forget that God knew that this Friday would take place. As he was shaping the planet we call home, he knew how much His beloved creations would change it, for better and for worse. We live in a world with constantly changing technology, but we still have the constant that will never change.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

So, whether you got the iPhone 5 today or not...

Have you considered the fact that God knew what you would be going through right now? 

Has it ever occurred to you that He wants you to invite Him into the craziness that you call life?

How do you and your Creator relate in the midst of a constantly changing world? 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

My Favorite Characteristic About God?

"I love that God doesn't just destroy evil, but He redeems it." -- some stranger I met once.

At my college group from church we went around saying our favorite characteristic of God. The common comments were "faithful", "gracious", "merciful", "forgiving", and so on. This one was the only one that was different, and it really caught my attention. 

I don't have much to say on that tonight. But please, take a moment to meditate on what that means for you tonight.

"But when Christ appeared as a high priest gof the good things that have come,5 then through hthe greater and more perfect tent (inot made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12 he jentered konce for all into the holy places, not by means of lthe blood of goats and calves but mby means of his own blood, nthus securing an eternal redemption." (Hebrews 9:11-12)

Redeem: to buy back or to buy out of. 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Approach in Silence

For the last two weeks I've been thinking a lot more about prayer than I usually do. I don't think the quantity of my prayer has changed much, but I know the quality has.

I've been challenged to approach God first in silence, listen for what He has to say, and only then lay my concerns before Him. I'll be the first to say, this is not easy. However, it is entirely worth it.

Many times in the last two weeks, I've approached God in silence and then realized I wasn't concerned with what I was originally going to complain to God about. He'd changed my perspective. It caused me to wonder, what it is I'm hearing when I don't approach God in silence?

I imagine when I approach God and just spout off my problems asking Him to do something about them, He's sitting there wondering if I'll ever stop talking and actually have a conversation. You know, the back and forth kind. I would guess, a lot of the time, I'm the one giving answers.

I encourage you to take a look at your prayer life, and see how you can get to know God better through it. I've learned and grown a lot, just by doing this.

If you're interested in content which goes deeper into this, check out the Basic Series, by Francis Chan. It's stellar!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Work in Secret

Although he's only 18 weeks old, Ezekiel loves books. It might have something to do with hearing Mommy and Daddy's voice. It probably has something to do with the bright colors. And it definitely has something to do with being able to put certain books into his mouth. The other night, I was reading an older story to Zeke entitled "Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel." Mike Mulligan and his steam shovel, Mary Anne, are an inseparable duo who worked digging canals, cutting through mountains to allow trains to travel through, smoothed out ground for runways, and dug basements for skyscrapers. Often times throughout the book, it is written that Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne always worked better with an audience; they "dug a little faster and a little better".

I enjoyed reading this cute story to Zeke -- but I was also challenged as I realized how similar to Mike Mulligan and Mary Anne I am. I don't know about you, but when I have an audience - when I know I am being watched - I tend to work a little better. Maybe not faster since I'm afraid to mess up, but definitely better. I want to impress, I want to be praised, I want the approval of man.

Maybe it's raising a hand during praise and worship simply for looks, not because of true worship occurring in my heart. Maybe it's sounding full of joy when my heart is sorrowful simply because I don't want others to think that I experience hurt. Maybe it's wanting to speak well in front of a group to earn their respect rather than wanting to bring praise to the Father.

But isn't that all wrong? Jesus said:
"'Beware of practing your righteousness before men to be noticed by them; otherwise you have no reward with your Father who is in heaven. So when you give to the poor, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be honored by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But when you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret will reward you.  
When you pray, you are not to be like hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you . . .  
Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who see what is done in secret will reward you.'" - Matthew 6:1-6, 16-18
We might not sound trumpets - but does our heart fill with pride when we give to those less fortunate than ourselves? We might not pray on the street corners - but do we have more elaborate prayers when we pray aloud in a group than when we pray in the quietness of our hearts? We might not appear like we're fasting from food, drink, or media - but do we brag about it by "sharing" our struggle with others?

Unfortunately, we seldom work in secret, don't we? Maybe it's because the praise of men is immediate - the praise of our Father will have to wait until He calls us home and gives us our crown of righteousness. But I've got a feeling it'll be well worth the wait.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Knit or Crochet ?

It's that time of year again.

Cool evenings leading to chilly nights. The sun rises and melts away Fall's first frost. Shorts and t-shirts dominate sunny afternoons before sweatshirts come out again after the evening meal.

With the changing of seasons people are looking for their warm clothes again.

Some people start knitting.

My wife and I crochet. 

She makes mittens. I make hats. Together we engage our creativity to make things people enjoy.

There was a poet named Dave who used creative language that I enjoy describing how God created us all.

 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)

In the "Tim Herset Translation" it reads:
    'you crocheted me together in my mother's womb.' 

Just as each stitch in every hat I make is unique, God made every part of every one of us unique. 

We've all been given a personality, a smile, a sense of humor, a left brain or a right brain default, a laugh, and an identity. God made you to be you. 

Sometimes the world wants us to believe we have to change who we are in order to be "good enough." 

That is not the case. 

God knew every detail about you when He put you together in your mother's womb. 

Through His sacrificial death and resurrection, He redeems, restores, and renews the broken parts we have.

Now, we are to be His children, living as He made us to be. 

What is it that sets you apart from everyone else on this planet? 
How did God knit - or crochet - you so you can best serve Him?
Do you need to get back to being the person you know you are?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Message of the Cross

"The Christian life is not hard to live." Pause.

Whoa. I heard this at a Campus Crusade meeting last week and I was honestly livid when he stopped there.  Thankfully, he continued after a few seconds.

"It's impossible. In fact, only One has ever done it."

The Christian life is full of rules. We have the 10 Commandments and a bunch of other rules that we follow from the Bible. It's ridiculous.

I can't do it. I've tried to be perfect, but I fail every time! It's disheartening when I see my sin and notice that I can't be what the law requires of me. Paul talks about that in Romans 7:
"For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out." (Romans 7:18)
But if you look a little earlier in that book, he writes, "For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace."

Grace: one of my favorite words! I've heard it said that "grace" is getting what you don't deserve. I don't deserve to be perfect-- I fall short of God's standards with every breath that I breathe. (Romans 3:23) I don't deserve God's love-- I stand as an enemy of God in my sin. I don't deserve any of it.

I do deserve punishment for my sin.

I bet you know what's coming. :) JESUS! He took that death sentence of mine-- of your's-- and brought it to the Cross. Now, as a gift of God, He offers us Christ's perfection in place of our sin. The Christian life is not about following a set of rules-- that's just like every other religion of the world. The Christian walk is a relationship with the Living God-- a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father and understanding of His love and forgiveness in your life.

"We don't read the Bible to follow the rules so that God will like us better. We read the Bible to get to know Him better on a personal level."-- Pastor Jeff Seaver

While it is important to recognize your sin and see where you stand under the judgment of God, you can't stay there. God offers a free gift-- redemption (My absolute favorite word! Meaning-- to buy out of. God BOUGHT us out of our sin.) and forgiveness through the blood of Christ. He longs for a personal relationship with you. Live in that grace, forgiveness, and freedom.

And while you're at it, read Hebrews 9:11-14. :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Do You...?

Do you ever forget what you look like?

Honestly, sometimes I do forget what I look like. Especially in specific circumstances, as in; how I appear when I wake up in the morning, or have just finished a hard run.

In the same way, I often forget to act upon what I've heard and been convicted by. 

"But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like." - James 1:22-24

It's not as if I've forgotten the big picture of who God is, or what He's done for me. But I do forget how incredible the good news of Jesus really is. How amazing it is to be free from the law which condemns me to death. The Gospel.

And I forget to act as a result. I leave it in my head as knowledge. I don't let it turn into actions. A specific circumstance where this most frequently happens for me, is through the small group studies which I've been a part of. On Tuesday nights I get convicted, challenged, and encouraged. And then by Wednesday night, I've completely left behind all I was challenged by. Maybe you can relate to this?

I've had to ask myself, have I really been transformed? Because if I have been, my actions will reflect it. Do I really believe? It's been incredible for me in these last two months to be, through the work of the Holy Spirit, much more focused on what I'm hearing, and how I'm being convicted, challenged, and encouraged. It isn't easy. But it is transformational! 

How about you? 
Do you ever forget what you look like?

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Pain of Change

I don't know about you, but I don't like change. I didn't like the change that took place when my older brother graduated from high school and moved four hours away. I didn't like the change of graduating from AFLBS and moving to Fargo to attend MSUM. And although I absolutely love my husband, I didn't like the change of moving to a small town in western North Dakota - farther from my family and close friends. It's been a little over three years since that last major change occurred - and to be honest, it's barely been a year and a half since I've adjusted to that change. Sometimes, the only easy thing to change is our socks. 

As you may or may not know, Adventures in Odyssey keeps me company on a daily basis. This past week, an episode aired dealing with change. If you've got a spare 25 minutes or need something to keep you entertained as you cook supper, wash dishes, avoid homework, or simply fill the silence, I encourage you to listen to the episode entitled "Back to Abnormal". You can find it here:

For full details, you'll just have to listen to the show. For the purpose of this blog, I'll simply tell you that in this episode, Eugene faces change -- and he's not too fond of it either. As he pours out his frustrations and despair to Mr. Whitaker, Whit offers this exhortation:
"Sometimes, change is God's way of taking us on a different path; one we may not choose ourselves."
As the story progresses and Eugene finds he isn't needed in any of his former jobs or activities, he discovers a new way to serve. A way that, if he wouldn't have had to experience the pain of change, he probably never would have discovered on his own.

Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation as Eugene's; a situation in which you are facing change. Maybe it's a major change, like moving to a different city, state, or country. Maybe it's moving from one job to a different one. Maybe it's simply moving from the familiar to the unfamiliar. Whatever the case may be, remember that in the change, you aren't alone. And we serve a Savior who will stay the same, no matter how quickly change swirls around us.
"'Even to your old age, I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you!'" - Isaiah 46:4 
"For He Himself has said, 'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you' . . . Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." - Hebrews 13:5, 8
Remember too those wise words from Whit. You can never know what the LORD's got in store - but you better believe it'll be greater than you could have ever hoped for or imagined!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

How to Mash Conflict in Your Life

A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched. Proverbs 28:25

Noticing the mayonnaise, mustard, and pickles on the counter, he inquired with obvious disappointment, "you're not really making potato salad are you? I would really prefer mashed potatoes." Like a Texas scorpion encountering a predator, my defenses went up in an instant. Such a simple request, but one apposing my own dinner plans.

My response was anything but selfless and mature. It didn't matter that I held my tongue, my attitude betrayed my heart. You know exactly what I'm talking about, don't you? Oh sure, I yielded and mashed every one of those hot potato cubes (potatoes may never have received so great a mashing!)--but inside I was steaming more than the pot before me.

As the Holy Spirit began His gentle work, my heart fell under conviction. I had wanted my way.

The Lord is revealing areas of my life where I am tightly holding personal "rights"--how I use my time, privacy, spending money... the right to talk, be kept informed, be heard, be served, be respected, etc. My being asked to change menu plans was only a surface problem. The root cause of the conflict was I was clinging to personal rights: to satisfy selfish desires (I'll cook what I want) and to not be questioned (I'm doing the cooking here!).

Identifying rights is only the first step in resolution. The next step is crucial--transferring the right to God. This is yielding to Him the authority to manage that area of my life (time, money, schedule, etc). He can (and will!) care for these so much better than I am able. The final step is to trust and thank God, regardless of what happens. This brings such freedom--I am no longer responsible for the outcome of these rights because God owns them!

The moment you find yourself in conflict, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal "rights"you're clinging to. As He does, lay them on the altar as your Isaac--"Dear Lord, I surrender to you my right to________. Thank you for however you will take care of this." Identify, surrender, trust & thank.

Lord, help us as we seek to trust you rather than clinging to our personal greed. "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." Psalm 51:17

Friday, September 7, 2012

Truths from the Trail

People have been telling me the truth for a while now. 

A couple years ago I heard the good news ... about the Whitefish Trail. 

Mountain biking is something God used to help me understand the Good News of His grace. So hearing about a beautifully built trail meandering about the mountains of Montana brought me joy. 

I talked about this good news with anyone who experienced it first hand. 
I talked about the pros and cons of riding this trail. 
I talked about the facts and the fables. 
I talked about the Whitefish trail so much you'd think I was an expert. 

But last night was the first time I experienced it for myself. 

Everything has changed. My life is different now.

I know through experience that the Whitefish Trail is awesome. 

Today God is using mountain biking to help me understand life with Him in a whole new way once again. 

Quite often I talk about the Good News of Jesus' sacrifice for my sin.
Quite often I talk about the good and bad parts of the Church.
Quite often I talk about other people's opinions of being a disciple of Christ.
Quite often I talk about the Triune God like I'm an expert on who He is in reality.

But all too often, I am not experiencing YHWH for who He wants to be to me. 

And I fear most of us are in that place too. 

We know the theological systems of thought from A - Z and everything in between.
We know the "right" way to be a Christian and the "wrong" way to "do church." 
We know the "best practices" of spiritual growth and can explain them to anyone.
We know the truth but have not let it set us free. 

The Bible uses the Greek "ginosko" to describe a type of knowledge that comes through real, personal experience. It gets at a deep intimacy that Abba, Yeshua, and Ruach Elohim (Hb. = Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) want us to have with Him. It is a different kind of knowing than that which is only in our head and experienced in our conversations. 

Jesus wants you to spend time getting to know Him.

Are you like me and find yourself talking more about Jesus and His love than you do truly taking it in and letting Him transform your life?

How does God want you to experience His grace and know Him more fully today?

Do you need to spend less time talking with your friends about theology and start putting into practice living in the presence of God? 

I know I do. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Be Transformed-- Pastor Jason Gudim

I've never done this before:

I want you to stop. I want you to take 17 minutes out of your crazy busy day and listen to a sermon that I heard this past Sunday. Please. I know you're busy (Believe me, I know busy. That's why I'm writing at 11:20 at night to make sure I write before it's officially Friday!), but I beg of you, listen to this sermon. Yes, it's by my brother, but that's not a little sister plug. My brother, Pastor Jason Gudim, is preaching through Romans at his church Faith Free Lutheran Church in Minneapolis, MN. It is a clear display of the Gospel. These are my sermon notes as well, but please take a listen.

"I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." --Romans 12:1-2

Here is the link to the audio recording of the sermon.

Be Transformed-- click here!


1. The Gospel changes our identity.

  • Not a life of service or how we present our life to God to show how good we are.
  • "Living sacrifice"-- Someone who has already been slain 
    • Galatians 2:20 "I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me."
  • You present yourself to God by His own mercy
    • We aren't holy or acceptable in ourselves
    • Through Jesus, in His death and resurrection, we are made holy!
    • The only thing we bring to the table is our sin and shame. God sees Christ's perfection.
2. The Gospel changes our activity
  • Worship is what God does for us-- He allows us to be in awe of Him. 
  • He allows us to dwell on the Gospel.
  • Look at the worship service-- the only part about me is the confession of sin.
    • It's all about Him!
3. The Gospel changes our ability
  • Nothing that this world has to offer is worth imitating, but we're addicted to it. We fail.
  • Be transformed-- passive verb-- it happens to us.
    • Be something other than what you were 
    • A butterfly doesn't work to be transformed!
    • A new creation-- not a better version. 
  • We don't need better discipline or more teaching, we need more of Jesus and less of ourselves.
  • Living sacrifice-- already happened, still living. Whoa. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Eyes Open?

Last week my eyes were opened. I had the opportunity to work as an assistant audio tech at a large guitar festival here in Northwest Montana. It was an incredible time! I learned a lot about audio, had some great times enjoying God's creation, and was able to enjoy lots of good music.

But something else happened as well. I lived in a host home for the week of the festival, and I had three roommates. These three men are all older gentlemen, and are very open about discussing spiritual things. They were also the majority of whom I interacted with closely, for the entire week.

One of them previously died of a heart attack and was brought back to life. He told us, "There's nothing to fear on the other side, only peace, colors you'd never imagine, joy, and shekinah glory."

Another one talked to me about how he discusses with his angels the tough decisions in life. He essentially bargains with them. And at one time, in so doing, his daughter's dog was 'healed'. Along with those things, he wears a piece of jewelry to declare his allegiance to his personal angel. Or spirit guide.

The third told me he didn't see much difference between Buddism and Christianity. He went on to tell me "I believe in Jesus... But not all of that religion stuff, like dying on the cross. I don't think He would have done that."

Interacting with these men was very eye opening. You see, I'd forgotten I live in a world which is headed for eternal destruction. What really hit this home for me was when one the groups of students performed the song "Highway to Hell" by AC DC. Here are the lyrics:

Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Asking nothing, leave me be
Taking everything in my stride
Don't need reason, don't need rhyme
Ain't nothing I would rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too
I'm on the highway to hell
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody's gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody's gonna mess me round
Hey Satan, payed my dues
Playing in a rocking band
Hey Momma, look at me
I'm on my way to the promised land
I'm on the highway to hell
(Don't stop me)
And I'm going down, all the way down
I'm on the highway to hell

The audience went wild when this song was played. This is reality. Our world is on a highway to eternal destruction. I was convicted, because I had forgotten this. Somehow I had ended up going to church Sunday, Bible study Tuesday, and had forgotten I was to go and make disciples. My eyes have been opened. This has caused me to be hungrier for God's Word, spend much more time in prayer, and cry out to God for the salvation of those who I know don't know Jesus as their savior.

Last week was a huge step towards having my eyes open. I'm very thankful Jesus brought me through it.

Are your eyes open?

Monday, September 3, 2012

God's Got Different Plans

Approximately one year ago, Jordan and I discovered that we were expecting our first child. After taking the home pregnancy test, I cried.  Honestly, they were not necessarily tears of joy.  Instead, they were tears of fear, tears of the unexpected, tears of my plans being changed. You see, in the month prior to finding out we were pregnant, Jordan and I had been seriously praying about international adoption. In fact, we had already done the research: which adoption agency we would like, which home-study organization we wanted to come into our home, weighing the costs. The application was actually all ready to be mailed in, just waiting for a $400 check to be written and sent along with it. We truly believed that this was something the Lord was calling us to do. Our hearts ached for orphan children who had no hope; we wanted to bring them hope and give them a home.

But obviously, the LORD had a different plan in mind. And at first, I wasn’t sure I liked that plan. In all honestly, I loved the idea of an adventurous adoption – despite the financial cost, as well as the time, effort, and energy to be invested. And African children are just plain beautiful. So hearing that our adoption plans would have to be put on hold was a bit of a shock for me. I wasn’t planning on having a child; we were planning on adopting one. Having my plans changed can be annoying at times.

Reading through some Proverbs this last week, I was struck by the truth of this verse lived out in our lives this past year:
“The mind of man plans his way, but the LORD directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
As I look back over the twelve months, I am so glad the LORD has different plans than we do. His plan was to bring Ezekiel into our lives – and what a joy, what a blessing his little 16-week self is! For whatever reason, the LORD decided we needed Zeke first, before any adoptions could take place. Who knows, maybe He’ll lead us down that path in the future. That’s in His hands – not ours. But I am so grateful that the Lord blessed us with Zeke. So, so grateful.

Sometimes, we have good ideas. Good plans. But if they’re not God’s ideas, God’s plans – then they aren’t the best. Remember that next time something doesn’t go the way you planned it out. Just wait and see what the Lord has in store for you – it could be better than you’ve ever imagined.
“'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,’ declares the LORD. ‘For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.’”  - Isaiah 55:10-11
 “It is written, ‘Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him.’” – 1 Corinthians 2:9

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Have you ever wondered where to begin, or how to stay on track when doing your daily devotions? Lately, I had hit a rut, where I read, but that was all it ends up being. I don't go away refreshed in God's Word, or really get focused during that time.

The other day I found a guideline for my time with Jesus, called SOAP, which has both helped me to stay focused and take the time to meditate on His words to me as we talk. Let me explain...

NOTE: It is good to have a journal or notebook for this. I have noticed that when I write down things, I remember it better, but even better yet, a month or year later, I can go back and see what God was doing in my life then, and what He has done in my life since. Also, it also helps you to meditate on God's word, rather than just read it and be done. 

Pick a book of the Bible to go through over the next few weeks or months, depending on how long the book is. Take it a few verses at a time, like a paragraph, or few sentences, etc. Eventually, you will have the whole book written down in your journal, with all that you have learned. 

SCRIPTURE: First, write down the scripture that you are studying for the day. 

OBSERVATION: Write down one or two things that you see in the passage. 

APPLICATION: Write down one or two ways you can specifically apply these verses to your life today

PRAYER: Pray about your applications, pray the scripture, and bring other requests to the Lord - and write them down!. Our time spent with Him is to be a conversation. Take time to let Him talk to you, and you talk to Him. 

This is just one way of many that we can stay focused as we grow in our Lord through devotions. God longs for us to be with Him, to build a relationship with Him. If you have other ways that work great for you, share them, and we can help and encourage each other in our walk with Jesus!

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Get Rock Solid Confidence from a Pile of Stones

"Then Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, "Till now the Lord has helped us." I Samuel 7:12

Since the birth of my nephew Eben James Friestad last week, the word, Ebenezer has been churning in my mind. 
"The word "ebenezer" comes from Hebrew and is actually two words pronounced together, Even Haazer. Literally speaking, an Ebenezer is a "stone of help," or a reminder of God’s Real, Holy Presence and Divine aid. Spiritually and theologically speaking, an Ebenezer can be nearly anything that reminds us of God’s presence and help: the Bible, the Sacramental Elements, a cross, a picture, a fellow believer, a hymn – those things which serve as reminders of God’s love, God’s Real Presence, and God’s assistance are 'Ebenezers.'" Dr. Gregory S. Neal, What's An Ebenezer

The past hold an immense ability to increase our faith. Looking back upon God's previous faithfulness in our lives, our confidence in His future faithfulness is radically strengthened. Unfortunately, we quickly forget His providential hand in our lives. God knows we have short memories--which is exactly why, in the Old Testament, He often commanded His people to erect memorials (stones, pillars, altars, items in the Ark of the Covenant, etc). These served as visual reminders of specific events in which the Lord had worked.

When the Israelites crossed the Jordan, Joshua commanded them, "
"take up each of you a stone upon his shoulder . . . that this may be a sign among you. When your children ask in time to come, 'What do those stones mean to you?' then you shall tell them that the waters of the Jordan were cut off before the ark of the covenant of the Lord . . . these stones shall be to the people of Israel a memorial forever." Josh. 4:5-7
Raising an Ebenezer serves two purposes. 1) To remind God's people what He has done; 2) To elicit the curiosity of others. 

Psalm 96:2 says it well, "Sing to the Lord, bless his name; tell of his salvation from day to day." As we reflect upon His faithfulness, we can't help but, 1) bless His name and, 2) desire to testify of His faithfulness. 

In what ways have you set up visual reminders of God's hand in your own life? A piece of jewelry, wall art, a coffee table ornament, a photo, or maybe some scribbles in the margin of your Bible can all serve such a purpose. Journaling is probably one of the best ways to "set up a memorial"--something that can be read in times of doubt, fear, and despair. A beautiful story of faithfulness that can be passed on for generations.

This week, raise an Ebenezer to God's faithfulness in an area of your life. If you would, leave some feedback and let me know what you've chosen to use and why.

Come Thou Fount, Robert Robinson, 1757