Thursday, February 28, 2013


Can I be candid with you? Sometimes I get mad at God; sometimes I even yell at Him. It may be about the weather or driving conditions, but as of late it's been because I don't feel like I'm enough. I yell at Him because I do not look the way I think I should look, or I'm not funny enough, or smart enough. I yell at Him because He's the One who made me, and He obviously could have done a better job.

Does that strike a chord with any of you? Do you ever compare yourself to others and think, "Why not me, God?"

Well, I went to a concert this past weekend and bought a t-shirt.

The band Rend Collective Experiment (awesome, check them out if you don't know them) spoke about how God doesn't have a factory in order to mass produce humans. Every little thing about you, about me, was perfectly handcrafted. He didn't make a mistake, and all that He creates is good

I know these verses are quoted often, but take a moment to ponder what that means in your life. 

For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother's womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
(Psalm 139:13-16 ESV)

God knew what He was doing when He made you, and He made you the way that you are to fulfill a purpose for His Kingdom and glory. He knew that you'd have a problem with sin, and He did something about it. He sent His Son to the cross so that you, in all of your sin and shame, would be able to stand before God in all that glory that He created you in; perfect. 

So the next time that these lies creep in, remember that God -- the King -- created you. He knows you better than anyone else, and He loves you with such an intense, fierce love. And He doesn't make mistakes, because He makes everything good

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Hardwired Evangelists

The small group Bible study I'm a part of has been going through The Explicit Gospel with Matt Chandler. It's exceptionally good, and has been a catalyst for the Holy Spirit to open my eyes much more fully to the Gospel, and in that, radically transform my life. I would truly love to see every person I know go through this study. It's been that impactful!

One of the things which really stood out to me is the idea we are all naturally evangelists. As in, it's intrinsically a part of who we are. At first I thought of this term in only the common Christian use, talking about Jesus so others will hear and receive Him. But in reality, we do this with everything.

When we experience something amazing, we talk about it right? When we see a movie and think it's the best of the year, we get excited and share about it. When we do something exciting, we get excited, and our excitement influences others to get excited about it.... See where I'm going with this? Just as I shared with you about this amazing Bible study I'm going through, each of us are hardwired to share about the things which are impacting us the most.

This leads us to a simple question. 
What are we sharing the most? Said slightly differently: What are we being evangelists of the most? Whatever it is, that is what is impacting our lives the most.

If it isn't Jesus, He doesn't love us less. And if it is, that doesn't cause Him to love us more. But it does speak a lot to where we are. 

May you experience the Gospel deeper this week!

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Call to Serve

Sometimes I get it. I get why Jonah said no. Why he ran in the opposite direction of where God had called him to go. It's certainly easier. Until that big fish came along. Then 'yes' may have looked a whole lot better than 'no'.

Over the past two months, I have been challenged in regards to my service to Jesus. Since becoming a mom, my involvement in the youth ministry and related activities at church has drastically plummeted. Everything seems to start at 7 pm, which is highly inconvenient when that's the time you start the bath water and begin winding your little man down for the night. So I really struggled with what I could do, how I could have some sort of outreach.

And then, at one of my MOPS (Mothers of PreSchoolers) meetings, there was announcement about a training for those involved in leadership or who wanted to become involved in leadership. I told the Lord that if that was something He wanted me to do, He was going to have to send someone to ask me to be involved.

Guess what? Yep. I was approached. I was asked to consider serving.

My excuses to say no were abundant. But so too were God's exhortations in Scripture to say yes:
God, this service isn't one of my strengths."And He has said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.' . . . When I am weak, then I am strong."(2 Corinthians 12:9-10) 
God, I get asked if I'm still in high school. I look young and feel too young and inadequate for this. "Let no one look down on your youthfulness . . . show yourself an example to those who believe." (1 Timothy 4:12) 
God, I like my comfortable schedule, routine and way of life. This will probably throw a wrench in that.Can't I just say no? "If I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me." (Philippians 1:22) 
God, are you really sure you want to use me"Christ Jesus our Lord . . . has strengthed me . . . He considered me faithful, putting my into service, even though I was formerly a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor." (1 Timothy 1:12-13)
For some reason we think we have to have it all together before we serve. That we can serve only in the areas where we feel gifted. That we aren't good enough. That someone else could do it better. We forget that the Lord will equip us when He calls us. He will be our strength when we are weak. He is good and because of His goodness, He uses flawed people like us.

And really, it's not about us anyways is it? It's all about Him.
"'Let your light shine before men in such a way that they see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.'" - Matthew 5:16 (emphasis mine)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

My Incredible Flesh-Starving Discovery!

"And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit." Galatians 5:24, 25 

There is a besetting sin in my life, a monster who keeps rearing it's hideous head. I despise it.

I have:
  • earnestly prayed for it's magical disappearance.
  • created strict rules to prevent falling victim to it's gruesome claws.
  • committed to God and myself, countless times, "from now on..."
  • confessed it to spiritual mentors and asked for accountability.
And still, the sin-monster remains. Not only remains, but defeats me. Why? My spirit is willing (oh so willing!), but my flesh is weak (oh so weak!). 
For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, 
and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, 
for these are opposed to each other,
to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 
Gal. 5:17 

As I was praying one recent morning, the Lord seemed to speak nearly audibly to me--
you must starve your flesh 
& feed your spirit! 

Immediately I was overcome with joy and hope--I knew this was the answer!

1. Starve to Death!
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion,
evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. Col. 3:5

If I am to put to death that hideous Gollum inside me, I must be aware of his supply lines so I can starve him. I cannot feed what would strengthen. What comes into my heart (mulit-media, conversations, relationships?) What pours forth from my heart (thoughts, imaginations, actions)?

How/what are you feeding your Gollum?

2. Feed to Strengthen!

 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Gal.5:16

"While the flesh sets its desires on self-pleasure through self-sovereignty, walking in the Spirit seeks divine-pleasure through divine-sovereignty."* In feeding our spirit we grant Christ increasing power over our lives. What is spirit-food? Media (sermons, podcasts, hymns, God-honoring movies), mature Christian friends, prayer, church, Bible studies, personal devotions, Scripture memory, and uplifting conversations. 

What are your eyes feasting on, nose smelling, and mouth ordering that will serve to increase your appetite for Christ?
In so living (flesh-starving/spirit-feeding)--my monster has been weakened and the Spirit has gained the upper-hand in this-particular-sin-battle and now reigns victorious! 

"And you were...following the prince of the power of the air [monster]...among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God [Spirit], being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us...made us alive together with Christ...For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." Eph. 2:1-8

*Eric Raymond, Starving and Suffocating Your Inner Gollum, Nov. 12, 2010

Friday, February 22, 2013

Nothing New

For centuries, heck, for a couple millennia followers of Christ have faced the same temptation.

As the book of Ecclesiastes tells us "there is nothing new under the sun."

What is that temptation?

Spending extended amounts of time discussing doctrinal differences.

The time spent focusing on the minute details that differentiate those guys there and these guys here all too often divides us and causes us to forget about Jesus and His heart for all people.

I have spent my fair share of minutes, hours - dare I admit, days - considering which camp I should set up my tent for this short time I'm able to camp with Christ here in this kingdom.

And isn't that what it's all about?

Knowing Jesus Christ; The Anointed One, Messiah, Savior, Healer, Teacher,  Friend.

Living life following Jesus is not easy. We are faced with debates and disagreements. We get asked tough questions. Sometimes we don't know what to say or do. We are tempted in many ways.

So I'll leave you with a quote from one of Jesus' followers who is much wiser than myself:

"The best way to come to understand what we don't know is to live what we do."

Do you know Jesus? Live your life with Him today.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Beware of Christians

A few weeks ago I was browsing Netflix and found a documentary entitled "Beware of Christians", a story following four college guys as they traveled to Europe and asked the people there what Christianity meant to them. One quote that struck me has been on my heart lately. They asked people in Italy if they could tell the difference in how Christians lived and they said, "No, they're just busy on Sundays." This broke my heart.

The Bible states that there is a different characteristic that will set believers apart: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:34-35).

If you've been consistently reading my posts on Thursdays, you'll see a trend throughout the past few weeks: love. Last week we looked at what the love of Christ looked like, and this week we see that the world will know that we are believers by OUR love.

If we look at two of the disciples of Christ, we see that they didn't have anything really special about them. However, people knew that they were different other than the fact that they were busy while they went to church.

"Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated, common men, they were astonished. And they recognized that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13).

God had given them boldness, which flowed naturally out of their love for Him. Because when you love someone, you talk about them. They become part of you; they invade your thoughts and your conversations with others. That's what happened to Peter and John, and people saw.

Now, if you don't talk about Jesus 24/7 this post is not to condemn you. But following Jesus is much more than just being busy on Sunday mornings. Following Him means allowing Him to shape your life and mold you into something beautiful that He will use to further His Kingdom, and that is done by showering the love that He gives to us onto others as well.

I pray that Christ's words recorded in John would be true of each one of us today, and not merely that we're busy on Sundays.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Radical Change

Much has been happening in my life of late. I've had a busier schedule than I've grown used to, I was sick for a week, and I went on a road trip. But most importantly, the Gospel has been radically impacting my life.

About a month ago, I realized, I had lost hold of what the Gospel of Jesus Christ means for me. I knew He had lived a perfect life, died, and rose again. But I was missing the personal impact of what it means for me, beyond giving me an entry pass to heaven. Here's a good description of where I was at:

"Early on, the Ephesians practiced a raw, gritty admission of shortcoming and guilt, but over time the church had become civilized, somewhat cold, and obsessively acute in their doctrinal awareness. In short, they aligned themselves with what was true but lost their missional edge. They had embraced an overly rationalized faith. Their heads were in the right place, but their hearts had not followed. They had the appearance of godliness but denied the power of the gospel to produce radical affection for Jesus, radical repentance from sin, and radical love for a lost world. In the end they were so proud and so far from the Lord that Jesus had to say, 'I'm going to remove My light from you if you don't go back and do what you did at first.'"- The Explicit Gospel Bible Study, pg. 84

Does this sound familiar at all? When I examined my life, I saw, and in many ways still see, an acute doctrinal awareness, alignment with truth, an overly rationalized faith, a head in the right place, but an unfollowing heart, and denied power of radical affection, repentance, and love.

In realizing this, through the work of the Holy Spirit, I cried out to God for help, asking to be inundated with the Gospel. And He has faithfully answered me everywhere I look! 

When I look around at those whom I know, I have to say, it's a lot harder to find those who can be described as radically following Jesus in response to the Gospel, than it is to find those who aren't. I can't speak for others, but personally, I had bought into the thought, the Gospel was just for me to get saved by and then work out the rest on my own. This does not lead to peace or joy. It leads to a stress filled longing for reaching Jesus through works and good efforts. Which effectively shouts, 'Thanks for dying Jesus, but now that I'm saved, I don't need that anymore.'

This clearly isn't what any of us mean to proclaim, but because of our lack of regular interaction with the Gospel, we have slumped into this. The awesome fact is, we can change! And that is exactly what I have been experiencing in the last few weeks!

I have joy for doing things which normally took all my effort just to force myself to do. And I have peace. One which isn't shakeable. How can this be? Inundate yourself with the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The good news of the grace which Jesus has bestowed on us. Here are a few resources which have really helped me in these last weeks. 

- The Jesus Storybook Bible, By Sally Lloyd-Jones

- The Explicit Gospel (Book, DVD, and Bible study workbook), By Matt Chandler

- The Garden City Church sermon podcast, By Justin Buzzard

Is your life radically changed because of the Gospel? 

Monday, February 18, 2013

He's Got It

I'm not much of a singer. In fact, you could probably classify me as tone-deaf. One day, after a "try and see if you can match this note" session with my husband, I commented to him how one of the biggest disappoints for me in not having a good signing voice was that I wouldn't be able to sing lullabies to our children someday. Interestingly, the little man hasn't thrown his hands over his ears when I sing to him . . . so far, anyways. And those moments when we're snuggling and singing before naptime happen to be some of my most precious times with him.

One of my favorites to sing to Ezekiel - whether I'm settling him down for a nap, giving him his nightly bath, or trying to make the 500 miles from Beulah to Minneapolis less traumatic - is "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands". I like to make up my own verses too, make the song more personal, more specific to our family and our current situation. So sometimes we sing "He's got your grandpa's and your grandma's in His hands" or "He's got your aunts and your uncles in His hands" or, when the weather is rough and our tires our bad, "He's got the ice and the tires in His hands".

You know what else I like about this song? It's a good reminder for me too. Because a lot of times, I tend to think that the future, our safety, our lives, is in my hands. But it's not. It's in His. And it's not only my heartaches, my concerns, my worries, or my sorrows that are in His hands. I am in His hands.
"'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 
Remember, no matter how difficult the situation may seem, He's got it. He's got you. He is the LORD.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Crack Fix

"I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you. Again I will build you, and you shall be built..." Jeremiah 31: 3b-4a

Friday I volunteered help a friend repaint her guest room. Taping off the molding with blue painters tape, I suddenly began noticing many unsightly cracks beneath each window. 

It would be easiest to simply paint over the cracks.
Much easier than repairing them.

But eventually. . . the paint would give way to the unsightly imperfection. And the crack once covered under a fresh coat of paint, would again be revealed. 

The old paint surrendered easily to the scraping of my putty knife. The broken drywall now fully exposed, I began to smear putty into the gaping crack. Smoothing the white mud, I wondered how obvious would the repair be? and how long before the crack would break through again? 

That got me thinking. God isn't in the business of quick fixes.
He's in the business of lasting results

This means tearing down before rebuilding. And often, it means placing new supports beneath the foundation to prevent the same blemish from reoccurring. 

"And I will give you a new heart, 
and new spirit I will put within you. 
And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh 
and give you a heart of flesh."
Ezekiel 36:26

1. The demolition is painful, as we surrender to the life-saving blade
humbling as broken areas are exposed. 
"You will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations." vs 31

2. But soon, our Loving Builder, replaces the broken pieces with entirely new ones. New! Fresh. Clean. Whole. Pure. 
"I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses..." vs. 29

3. He then strengthens us with His Spirit and His Word. 
"And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." vs. 27

4. Ultimately, He does all this for His glory
"Then the nations that are left all around you shall know that I am the Lord
I have rebuilt the ruined places..." Ezekiel 36:36

Where is your wall cracked? Will you release it to the Master Builder? Trust Him to demolish, replace, and strengthen. . . that His holy name might be glorified!

Friday, February 15, 2013

dancing in the minefields

a dear friend posted a link to a video on the Facebook yesterday that struck a chord in my heart.

this is because I'd listened to that song two - if not three - times before during the day. my heart was being molded by my Maker through the lyrics and composition of Andrew Peterson.

after 8 months of being married, I am aware of my inexperience and ignorance about much of what life lived so intimately with another is like.

being married is meant for so much more than making one person happy.
being married is about life to be received not to address an emptiness you want relieved.
being married is a beautiful way to understand our identity as image bearers of God.

together, husband and wife can go dancing in the minefields, sailing in the storms. I am glad I am.

so, in light of Valentine's Day, however you feel about it, and whatever your relational status; consider the lyrics of Peterson's song "Dancing in the Minefields."

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Day to Be Reminded

Ahhhh... Valentine's Day. The day millions of people across the nation will dawn their best outfit, make reservations at a fancy restaurant, give/receive flowers, and eat a lot of chocolate. Believe me, I work at a candy store. There is a lot of chocolate given today. But why?

If you read my post last week, I challenged you to read 1 Corinthians 13 every day for one week.

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 

So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these in love."  -- 1 Corinthians 13

This love looks a lot different than the love that the world portrays in cheesy chick flicks and the shallow imitations we try to live out. This love comes from God, because God is love (1 John 4:8). God shows this love to us daily: from the sun that rises to the breath in your lungs. This love always points back to that day on the cross: that while you were still a sinner, an enemy of the King, He chose to die for you so that you would not have to be punished for your crime. He chose that out of love. Because HE is patient and kind, HE does not envy or boast, HE is not arrogant or rude.

God allows us to share in this love as well! He has given us hearts with passions and desires for other men and women that He has created. What a glorious idea that He allows us to love others! So whether you're reading this with a significant other (hubby, wife, fiance, boyfriend, girlfriend) or utterly single, celebrate that God allows us to love. Take the time to celebrate His love for you, but also go ahead and celebrate those He has placed in your life that you love as well.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Monday, February 11, 2013

A Time

I caught myself wishing the other day. As Ezekiel crawled over to me at the kitchen sink and used my pant leg to pull himself up to a standing position, so desperately wanting to see what I was doing and so desperately wanting that bowl of oatmeal - I caught myself wishing: "I can't wait until Zeke can stand up on his own." It'd be nice. Then I could move my leg without worrying about knocking my son onto his rump or bumping his head into the counter. But almost as soon as I had that wish, I took it back. Because you know what? The past nine months have gone incredibly fast. Too fast. And I know that time, that Ezekiel's - and therefore our - life, isn't slowing down anytime soon.

It's all too easy to wish our lives away, isn't it? When we're in middle school, we can't wait to be in the high school. When we're in high school, we can't wait for the independence and freedom of college. When we're in college, we can't wait to graduate. We dream of getting married, of having kids. It seems like we always want to be where we aren't; that we are always ready for the next phase, the next adventure - rather than living in the time the Father has given to us. We forget that life is full of seasons. And just like we can't rush spring into summer on our own timeline, we can't rush from one season of our lives into another.
"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven - a time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted. A time to kill and a time to heal; a time to tear down and a time to build up. A time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance. A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones; a time to embrace and a time to shun embracing. A time to search and a time to give up as lost; a time to keep and a time to throw away. A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; a time to be silent and a time to speak. a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace." - Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 
Some of the seasons hurt and seem to last much longer than we think they should. Other seasons are full of indescribable joy and they go way faster than we'd like. But they're all seasons. They're all "a time". And the great part about those times - no matter how difficult, sorrowful, blessed, joyful, pained? We know the one who holds them in His hands. And each one of those are equally in His hands.
"But as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, 'You are my God.' My times are in Your hand." - Psalm 31:15

Friday, February 8, 2013

who we are precedes what we do

how do you define who you are? 

is it by the work you do 40 hours a week? 
or do you point to your passion, that thing you love to do so much, you seem to only dream about doing it for a living?

does your activity give you your identity?

how do you define what you do during the day?

is it by the work you do 40 hours a week?
or do you point to your passion, that thing you love to do so much, you seem to only dream about doing it for a living?

does your activity indicate God's calling for you life?

don't confuse your identity with your calling.

you are God's beloved son or daughter first - this is your identity.
you live out of your identity, doing specific things during the day - this is your calling. 

don't define yourself by what you do, define yourself by who God has declared you to be. 

then go and do what He has called you to do. 

if the "doing" doesn't go so well, you've still got your identity as God's child. 
if the "doing" goes great, you're still identified by God's declaration rather than your deeds.

what God has done in you (identity) is precious.
what God has asked you to do (calling) is precious.

who we are precedes what we do.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

His Kind of Love

Have you ever taken a personality test? There's one with four different colors: red, blue, white, and yellow. Most are made up of a combination of these, but I am completely blue. Blue means intimacy -- I like people and relationships and love. However, I was warned when I took this that grumpy old men and women are usually "blue" because they loved so much but that love was not returned.

Scene change.

Last night I watched "Fireproof" again and the main character, Caleb, was complaining to his father that he couldn't love his wife when he was being rejected over and over again. His father gently listened to him as he slowly walked to the cross.

I'll be honest, the man that warned me about becoming a grumpy old woman had some truth in his speech. It's really easy for me to pour myself out to people and then shut down and cry myself to sleep when that love is not returned. But what about God?

There's something different in the way that I love than the way that God loves: His love is unconditional. In my flesh, my love is based on the conditions that I find myself in, and when they don't please me, I pull my love away. That's not how God works though. In fact, "God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." (Romans 5:8) We have nothing to bring God that would make Him love us -- we're even compared to dirty underwear in the Bible (Isaiah 64:6) -- and we constantly reject Him when we don't love Him above all else. And we can't. No matter how hard you try, you can't. That's where God's love, His unconditional love, showers over us and we can rest in that.

If you read Karyn's post on Sunday, she posted a short read entitled "The Greatest Thing in the World". If you didn't read it then, please read it this week. The author challenged the readers to read 1 Corinthians 13 every day for a week to look at what love truly means. Love, not the fluffy, romantic stuff we see in movies, but love that is patient, kind, generous, humble, unselfish, good tempered, and sincere. As Valentine's Day is exactly one week from now, most people have "love" on the mind. Will you join me in this challenge? 

My love fails, but God says that true love never fails. (1 Corinthians 13:8). I want a love like His. A love for Him, for my brothers and sisters in Christ, and the lost. A love that is unconditional. He is the source of that love.

"We love because He first loved us" --1 John 4:19

Monday, February 4, 2013

Deprevational Giving

In another week or so, I imagine there will be a handful of Facebook status' crawling along my home page saying something like the following: "So long, Facebook! See you after Lent." In high school, it was common this time of year to hear my classmates say during our lunch break, "Ugh. I wish I could eat that cookie. But I gave up sweets for Lent." Growing up in a non-Lutheran home and attending a church where "giving something up" for Lent wasn't common, emphasized or even talked about, it was kind of weird. And in all honesty, I still think it's a bit odd. I mean, I get the reasoning behind depriving oneself during Lent; the whole think of what Jesus gave up for you; when you crave what you've given up, pray or think about the Lord and let that satisfy you. But in high school, and even now, I can't help but think that the emphasis is more on us - on what we are sacrificing. There seems to be an attitude of "Woe is me! I cannot drink that latte for another four weeks." Seems to me that we've got this all wrong.

I couldn't help but think of the upcoming "Lenten deprivation" as I read through Isaiah 58 the other morning. The LORD is addressing the Israelite's observance of fasts - but somewhere in our Christian heritage, we seemed to have lost the importance of, or at least need of, fasting. So His words made me think of Lent. You should probably just grab your Bible, Nook, Kindle, or open a new web page and read the entire chapter: it's good. Here's some highlights that struck me:
"'You do not fast like you do today to make your voice heard on high. Is it a fast like this which I choose, a day for man to humble himself? Is it for bowing one's head like a reed and for spreading out sackcloth and ashes as a bed? Will you call this a fast, even an acceptable day to the LORD? 
Is this not the fast which I choose, to loosen the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bonds of wickedness, to undo the bands of the yoke, and to let the oppressed to free and break every yoke
Is it not to divide your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into the house; when you see the naked, to cover him; and not to hide yourself from your own flesh? . . . 
If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness, and if you give yourself to the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted, then your light will rise in darkness and your gloom will become like midday. And the LORD will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones . . ." - Isaiah 58:4-7; 9-11
Deprivation alone doesn't do much good. Maybe our deprivation needs to be accompanied by giving. Depriving so that we can focus more on the needs of others. Realizing that we have so much that we can give some of it up. Using the money saved on that latte to feed a child for a year. Using the money saved on those baked delicacies to free a girl from prostitution. Not buying those new clothes to sit in our closet but instead giving them to a homeless shelter to clothe a kid who's got one pair of jeans. Taking the time to visit our elderly relatives and fellow believers in the nursing home. To stop casting the blame on someone else for all the problems in the world and start doing something - however small - to change it. To deprive my tongue of the joy of gossip and clamping it shut, speaking instead the words of the Lord. Spending time serving in a food shelter or packing boxes of food for the hungry next door and around the world.

And maybe this whole deprivational giving should be done every day of the year - not just the forty-some days of Lent. Because I think that's what it looks like to follow Jesus. When we give, when we care about the needs of others and actually do something about their needs, when we spend our time and money on helping the hungry and naked -- others will see the Light of the World in us.
"'You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put in under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.'" - Matthew 5:14-16

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Curl-Up-On-the-Couch Sunday

Grab a mug of your favorite warm beverage-of-choice (mine happens to be a cup of freshly roasted, french pressed coffee with homemade whip), a cozy blanket, light a candle, and find a comfy spot to curl up and enjoy the next hour. I have the most perfect little read for your Sunday afternoon.

There are a lot of excellent books. A lot. But only a few books stand out in my mind as personal 'life changers'. One of those books is The Greatest Thing in the World, by Henry Drummond. I have given out more copies of this book than any other. 

The contents are soul stirring
life changing.

(Don't let the word "book" scare you--for really, it was originally a sermon. It's fairly short--it won't take you more than a few hours--you can finish it before it's time to make Sunday evening popcorn!)

So, without further ado, I present to you one of my all-time favorite books. 

The Greatest Thing in the World

P.S. Leave your comments, let me know what you think.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Moments Matter

Most of us in this world are looking for the next big thing in life. 

We want to do something so great, so memorable, so Instagram-worthy and Facebook-post-able that we miss out on the moment. 

There is such depth, beauty, and power in the now. The Kingdom of God is here but not yet fully realized. Each moment is filled with the Spirit's pull to know Him and be known by Him.

But when was the last time anyone noticed?

Today could be the best, worst, easiest, hardest, most memorable, most mundane; but however today turns out, God is present and passionately pursuing you. 

Will you let today's moments shape your mind to see things in light of eternity?

While having hopes and dreams may motivate us for great Kingdom work, don't forget to live the day. Each step of the way is a part of the process. Every "Howdy" and "See Ya Later" has a face with a story to tell. Every hug, high five, or smile has potential to change a life. When that potential makes itself known, don't turn away but rather step into the reality of a heart deep conversation.

Whatever it is today, take to heart what Rich Mullins once wrote about these kind of moments:

"It is for those every-once-in-a-while kind of moments - far more than for those once-upon-a-time ones - that we can be most thankful. It is in those moments that we find some sense of who we are." 

We are God's image bearers, being restored in this distorted world, while His Kingdom is here now but not yet fully known. Each moment of each day is an opportunity to be thankful. 

May your moments bring you an eternal perspective of who you are in Christ.