"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

June books

Wow, it's the end of June already! I blogged a lot this month about the books I read, but here's the compiled list. Additionally I read some in the Old Testament -- Job, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, Songs of Solomon and Isaiah.

Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin -- wrote much about this at the beginning of the month; great book!

The Centurion's Wife by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke -- first book in the Acts of Faith series; centurion Alban is on a mission for Pontius Pilate to find out if the Judaeans are planning a revolt. He also is wanting to know what happened to Jesus' body. Leah is also on a mission finding out similar things for Pilate's wife who suffered many horrible dreams related to the crucified prophet

Wild Goose Chase
by Mark Batterson -- wrote lots of posts on this from June 6-11 -- loved it

The Prayer of Jabez by Bruce Wilkinson -- see notes in June posts -- challenging!

Secrets of the Vine
by Bruce Wilkinson -- see notes in June posts -- painful and challenging

Tortured for Christ by Richard Wurmbrand founder of The Voice of the Martyrs ... some quotes from his book:

"The cruelty of atheism is hard to believe. When a man has no faith in the reward of good or the punishment of evil, there is no reason to be human. . . The Communist torturers often said, 'There is no God, no hereafter, no punishment for evil. We can do what we wish.' I heard one torturer say, 'I thank God, in whom I don't believe, that I have lived to this hour when I can express all the evil in my heart'" (pg. 36).

"When one Christian was sentenced to death, he was allowed to see his wife before being executed. His last words to his wife were, 'You must know that I die loving those who kill me. They don't know what they do and my last request of you is to love them, too. Don't have bitterness in your heart because they killed your beloved one. We will meet in heaven'" (pg. 43).

"We don't pray to be better Christians, but that we may be the only kind of Christians God means us to be: Christlike Christians, that is, Christians who bear willingly the cross for God's glory" (pg. 133). -- letter smuggled out from Underground Church member

I quoted a bit more from this book in previous posts. Really great book!

The Day Israel Dies
by Salem Kirban -- gives a brief overview of Jewish history from the call of Abraham to future events according to the author's interpretation of biblical prophecy; had some interesting historical facts; the title is speaking of the time when the Antichrist brings temporary peace to the Middle East

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Are you satisfied with God?

I am on the mailing list of a local church and today I read this article, Loving God for Who He Is: A Pastor's Perspective which was used in their monthly publication. It caught my attention from the first sentence: "One of the most important discoveries I have ever made is this truth: God is most glorified in me when I am most satisfied in him."

Satisfied, eh? As in my life needs nothing more because I have all I need already? Wow! Whom do I know that can claim this wonderful thing? I included a few more quotes from it below.

Tragically most of us have been taught that duty, not delight, is the way to glorify God. But we have not been taught that delight in God is our duty! Being satisfied in God is not an optional add-on to the real stuff of Christian duty. It is the most basic demand of all. "Delight yourself in the Lord" (Psalm 37:4) is not a suggestion but a command. So are: "Serve the Lord with gladness" (Psalm 100:2); and: "Rejoice in the Lord always" (Phil. 4:4).

David and Asaph teach us by their own God-centered longings that God's gifts of health, wealth and prosperity do not satisfy. Only God does. It would be presumptuous not to thank him for his gifts ("Forget not all his benefits," Psalm 103:2); but it would be idolatry to call the gladness we get from them, love for God. When David said to the Lord: "In your presence there is fullness of joy, in your right hand are pleasures for evermore," (Psalm 16:11), he meant that nearness to God himself is the only all-satisfying experience of the universe.

Check out that article and ask yourself: Do I delight in God or the things I want from Him and the things He has provided for me? Am I satisfied with Him? Perhaps we are longing for more because we have not realized our hearts long for God.

In light of my dissatisfied months post-Damascus, this has struck a chord!

Concerning the Underground Church

Andrew is the one who saw this book offered by The Voice of the Martyrs and filled out the form to receive it. It came about a month ago, but we both were reading other books so I put it on the bookshelf. The other day I was browsing through a few books trying to figure out which one to read next when I decided to give Tortured for Christ a read. (USA residents can get a free copy at this link.)

I've really been amazed at how much these words from the late founder of VOM have spoken to me. From chapter 4 so far I've made note of these sentences.

On why he suffers more in the West than he did in Communist lands where he was tortured in prison for his faith, Richard Wurmbrand states:

"The Underground Church is a poor and suffering church, but it has few lukewarm members" (pg. 84).

Reflection time: how does this description compare to most American believers? Some think us still to be a Christian nation yet the culture has dominated us and influenced us way more than we have influenced the nation. When more than 70 out of 100 people claim to be Christians yet the nation is in the shape that it is ... um, well, we are poor and suffering spiritually and very lukewarm. Perhaps we've had life so good that our faith has been watered down and it's become ineffective.

"Whoever has known the spiritual beauty of the Underground Church cannot be satisfied anymore with the emptiness of some Western churches" (pg. 85).

Hmmm. Wouldn't you like to experience that kind of spiritual beauty? I would!

"The distinctive feature of the Underground Church is its earnestness in faith" (pg. 113).

Maybe this has something to do with the verse about the trial of your faith being much more precious than gold. It seems that trials strengthen our faith if we respond in the right manner.

"How underground Christians rejoice on those rare occasions when they meet a serious Christian from the West!" (pg. 114)

This statement really made me pause .. and think, "Would they believe that I am a serious western believer by the way I live my life? Would I stand true to Jesus despite persecutions?" To be honest, I am often scared that I am such a coward that I'd justify denying Christ if I were given a choice to denounce Him or die. :-/

Pastor Wurmbrand challenges western believers to reach across borders even into restricted nations. He said we don't need government permission to evangelize. As he asks, did the apostles ask permission from Nero? He encourages us to sustain the Underground Church and reach others by working with the Underground Church already there. (pg. 116)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Encouraging Collectibles!

God is so good.

Just now I came inside to post a few things on my blog. I wanted to write down some collectibles from today. And I got another as I was sitting here. Dear Angela commented on my "He is the Savior!" post from the other day and really blessed my heart. I declare that God greatly blessed my life when He caused our paths to cross! She speaks life to my heart so very often and I am always amazed how God uses her to lift my spirits. I know she prays the prayer of Jabez and as far as I am concerned God has enlarged her territory because she speaks to me all the way in North Carolina though she doesn't even live in the States!

Here are her encouraging words to me this evening:

And start thanking God NOW beloved one..NOT when they are out of the miry pit. They may have wandered away ,but God has not wandered away from them. I keep praising God for the work He is doing in my eldest son. I REFUSE to walk by sight when I 'see' my son,, I walk by faith when I 'see' him..and the more I do that, the more I see God's hand in his life. When I was busy walking by sight, Susanne,,it was literally killing me emotionally because all I saw was brokenness and those fears of evil tidings coming to pass..NO MORE!! Remember,,the good work that God started in each of them,,WILL be accomplished,,in Christ Jesus.

And this so nicely goes with a quote that impressed me as I read a book by The Voice of the Martyrs founder, Richard Wurmbrand. In Tortured for Christ he makes the statement that he would look at his fellow prisoners and also the Communists who tortured him "as they will be in the future! . . . [L]ooking at men like this -- not as they are, but as they will be -- I could also see in our persecutors a Saul of Tarsus -- a future apostle Paul." Wow! This was really very encouraging in light of the people on my heart right now. And then I came here and read Angela's comment which essentially reminded me of the very same thing! Through a book and through Angela's comment - within the space of an hour - God told me the same message: I can change people! Have faith and see how I can take these messy situations and mire-filled people and make them beautiful! I am the Lord, nothing is too difficult. Or as the book of Luke says, "With God nothing is impossible."

Isn't this small verse BURSTING with hope?

'Scuze me while I shout!



Other things that I wanted to record. A verse from a song .. an old hymn, Blessed Assurance, written by a blind woman years ago named Frances J. Crosby. The third stanza really spoke to me earlier today:

"Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior am happy and blessed, Watching and waiting, looking above, Filled with His goodness, lost in His love."

Wow, really think about those words. Reread them and consider what is being said. I think God is teaching me to wait on Him. And this hymn reminds me of how glorious a time waiting truly can be. Patience/waiting + American don't generally go together, but God is rewiring me so I'm not more American, but more like His precious Son! And really, who doesn't want to be at rest (peace), happy, blessed, looking above for answers, filled with His goodness and lost in His love! Oh man, can you get much better than that??

And one last thing ... a verse from Isaiah 41. I read it the other day and found it sweet in a simple way. I could totally picture a mom comforting a timid child this way. So the picture in my mind was touching.

13 For I am the LORD, your God,
who takes hold of your right hand
and says to you, Do not fear;
I will help you.

God is so good.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Terrorists or a Mission Field?

"When you see pictures of large Muslim crowds protesting cartoons of Muhammad in London or Lahore, do you see them as a threat? Or do you see them as a mission field?" (pg. 229)

"Jesus said we are to love our enemies. To our minds that just doesn't make sense. How can we love someone we hate? But that's the brilliance of this command, for if I decide to love someone, that person cannot remain my enemy. Often I have said that the best way to disarm a terrorist with a gun is to go up and hug him." (pg. 230)

Yusef, told Andrew the only "hope for the church to have any impact on the Muslim community" was "Love. After long years of war and persecution, Christians seldom see Muslims as people whom God loves and for whom Christ died. Christians need a new filling of the Holy Spirit to love those who disagree with them. And the greatest expression of love is to share with them the most precious thing a Christian has, which is the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ."

From Secret Believers: What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ by Brother Andrew and Al Janssen

One Week Isn't Enough Time!

I remember a few weeks ago when I was reading II Chronicles that this story from chapter 30 stood out to me. King Hezekiah wanted the people to come together to celebrate Passover. These were children of Israel who apparently had abandoned their spiritual foundation in order to worship false gods. But, in an effort to make things right in God's eyes,

6 At the king's command, couriers went throughout Israel and Judah with letters from the king and from his officials, which read:
"People of Israel, return to the LORD, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, that he may return to you who are left, who have escaped from the hand of the kings of Assyria. 7 Do not be like your fathers and brothers, who were unfaithful to the LORD, the God of their fathers, so that he made them an object of horror, as you see. 8 Do not be stiff-necked, as your fathers were; submit to the LORD. Come to the sanctuary, which he has consecrated forever. Serve the LORD your God, so that his fierce anger will turn away from you. 9 If you return to the LORD, then your brothers and your children will be shown compassion by their captors and will come back to this land, for the LORD your God is gracious and compassionate. He will not turn his face from you if you return to him."

Sadly many people ridiculed these messengers and had no plans to unite with their kinsmen to remember the time the Lord passed over the Israelites and spared their firstborn sons in Egypt. However, this proclamation didn't fall on deaf ears because Chronicles reports that some men humbled themselves and a large crowd gathered in Jerusalem.

The passover lamb was slaughtered and everyone ate even though many of them were not ceremonially clean. Some people believe their cleanliness is the most important thing to God. No doubt it was very important in Old Testament times so maybe this next part is why this passage stood out to me.

So these people gathered, celebrated Passover and ate though they were unclean. What happens next? Did God strike all those defiled people dead? Let's read . . .

But Hezekiah prayed for them, saying, "May the LORD, who is good, pardon everyone 19 who sets his heart on seeking God—the LORD, the God of his fathers—even if he is not clean according to the rules of the sanctuary." 20 And the LORD heard Hezekiah and healed the people.

How about that! Immediately my mind went back to II Chronicles 7
(14 if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.) and how this verse was applied in similar fashion by Hezekiah in this situation.

Chapter 30 concludes with the people celebrating, singing praises to the Lord with great rejoicing for seven days! How lovely that must have been to see! Oh wait! Seven days wasn't long enough so the people agreed to another seven days of praising the Lord!

There was great joy in Jerusalem, for since the days of Solomon son of David king of Israel there had been nothing like this in Jerusalem. 27 The priests and the Levites stood to bless the people, and God heard them, for their prayer reached heaven, his holy dwelling place.

Wow! Can you praise the Lord with great rejoicing for 2 weeks? I bet it would change your outlook. As you rejoice in the Lord, you realize how big He is and how, in reality, everything else is so small. Magnify the Lord with me and let us exalt His name together!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Enlarge Your Vision

Within the last ten days or so I have read two small books with powerful messages. Go back just a few posts and you will see notes from The Prayer of Jabez and Secrets of the Vine. Very challenging little books!

The first one discussed various aspects of Jabez's prayer to the Lord which included enlarging his borders or territory. The author likened this to our prayer for more ministry or influence to further God's kingdom.

And then in Secrets of the Vine, I was reminded how all the good works I do for God are meaningless and empty if I am cut off from the Root. If my relationship with God suffers, then the other stuff will be worthless. How beautiful is a flower that is cut from the root? The beauty fades as the flower dies because it is no longer nourished by the root.

So it was really "funny" that just this week I also read an article in a publication which I receive each month. Here is what caught my attention:

"God calls us to enlarge our vision of the family. . . . In the parable of the Good Samaritan, the Lord calls us out of our family compound down to the highway, where a stranger from another ethnicity and religion lies bleeding."

"He commands us to love this stranger -- our 'neighbor' -- as ourselves." The author reminds us that "our truest family" are all those who have been adopted into the family of Jesus Christ. Her challenge is for us to look past our children and reach out and love others as well.

So that was the reminder from The Prayer of Jabez. But this next thing was a reminder from the other book.

"I know an even greater call: to know and love God with everything in us. That's where we always must begin. . . .When I pursue the Lord first and am satisfied with His love, I am freed. . . . . I'm no longer looking to [my children] to fulfill what only my Father in heaven can provide: my identity, purpose and significance. I am freed ... to see beyond the walls of my home to the world outside and to spend time and effort there, serving my neighbors. Even serving with my children." ~ by Leslie Leyland Fields

He is the Savior!

"He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
and gave me a firm place to stand."
Psalm 40:2

Quite often when I think of the unsaved and myself prior to God saving me, I mentally picture someone in a mud pit literally caked so heavily with mud that there is no way she can free herself. So she just sits there, possibly struggling against this miry prison, possibly enjoying it at times as pigs do. I visualize things like this as I realize we cannot save ourselves. Our attempts to clean ourselves while in the mud pit are futile -- amusing, in fact! Logic dictates that first we must be out of the mud in order to be clean!

The last day or so I have been burdened about a few people very dear to my life. I weep over lifestyle choices they have made. Though they were brought up to honor the Lord, now they have allowed their minds to be corrupted by worldly influences. They are wallowing in this mud pit likely oblivious to their conditions.

And that breaks my heart.

It always saddens me when I think along these lines.

So this morning I was reading through Isaiah as I sat on the porch in my rocking chair. I read a while and then got to thinking of these precious people and was crying out to God for their souls. As I mentally pictured them in this dirty pit and in no way able or even realizing they needed rescuing, I reminded the Lord that I could not save them. Although I might be standing just outside the pit wishing I could help, I am not anyone's savior.

I reminded the Lord that this is not about anyone deserving anything from Him, but simply because of Who HE is. He is the Savior. He's the only one who can reach into that pit, lift them out, cleanse them and set their feet on the Rock.

After my prayer time, I resumed my reading in Isaiah and was encouraged a short time later by this verse. Mainly because it was so much like the conversation I'd just had with my Lord. It reads:

"I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no savior."


I am eager to see how the Savior saves! I want to see these people out of the miry pit, washed clean and serving the Lord with gladness.

I look forward to that day, trusting that God is mighty to save (Zeph. 3:17), not willing that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9) and whatever we ask according to His will, He will do it (John 14:13).

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Who IS that masked man?

Er...I mean, boy.
Picture from May 29, 2009

As a matter of fact

I don't react like a Christian! At least not today!

The reactionary self reared!


Abiding with Him & Being God's Friend

More from Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson . . .

"Unless my friendship with God [becomes] my first priority . . . I [will] never fulfill my true destiny as a Christian or a leader." (pg. 98)

On why his busy Christian life left him feeling burned out, Bruce writes, "I'd become an expert at serving God, but somehow remained a novice at being His friend." (pg. 101)

Abiding is all about the most important friendship of your life. Abiding doesn't measure how much you know about your faith or your Bible. In abiding, you seek, long for, thirst for, wait for, see, know, love, hear, and respond to . . . a person. More abiding means more of God in your life, more of Him in your activities, thoughts, and desires.

In our Western-style rush to do and perform for God, we often falter at the task of simply enjoying His company. Yet we were created to be dissatisfied and incomplete with less. In the words of the psalmist, "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God" (Psalm 42:1). (pg. 103)

On abiding not being a feeling, the author writes, "Abiding is an act of faith -- a radical expression that you value God's unrestricted presence in your life more than any immediate sensation." (pg. 112)

"Abiding helps us to sense the leading of the Lord. We learn to recognize God's "still small voice" (I Kings 19:12) and become familiar with His ways. Abiding helps us to accomplish more for Him because we are more in tune with His directives." (pg. 113)

In summary, while the discussion of discipline and pruning wasn't exactly what one longs to read, the result of abiding in God's presence and His producing fruit through us is worth it. What greater joy is there than knowing the Lord of all creation cares for me, loves me and is my friend!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Disciplining and Pruning

I just finished Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson. In it, he discusses truths from John 15 where Jesus tells His disciples how to bear much fruit by abiding in Him. The author used Jesus' example of the vineyard and explained how the Vinedresser takes unproductive vines and works with them so they produce much fruit. Although this book was short, it was rather painful at times as the author discussed disciplining and pruning. But the end result was sweet -- abiding in Him and being God's friend! Below I will list several quotes that stood out to me.

"If your life consistently bears no fruit, God will intervene to discipline you." (pg. 35)

"[R]emember that His discipline is always just one aspect of His relationship with you. When your mother reprimanded you, she didn't stop caring for you, talking to you, or wanting your love in return. Satan would love to convince you that because your Father is dealing firmly with you, you're a worthless, unlikable loser. The opposite is true. Only if you've never received discipline should you doubt His favor. The Bible says, 'If you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons' (Hebrews 12:8)." (pg. 40)

"Disciplining is God's proactive answer to moving you out of barrenness and toward fruitfulness." (pg. 44)

Repentance "is a lifestyle, an ongoing commitment to keep putting aside our rebellion and receive God's forgiveness." (pg. 53)

"If your life bears some fruit, God will intervene to prune you." (pg. 58)

Oftentimes a plant will experience rapid growth, but it doesn't always produce the desired fruit. It's as if the plant's energy goes towards greenery and vines where fruit (grapes) is desired. "For the Christian, rampant growth represents all those preoccupations and priorities in our lives that, while not wrong, are keeping us from more significant ministry for God." (pg. 60)

"If disciplining is about sin, pruning is about self. In pruning, God asks you to let go of things that keep you from His kingdom purposes and your ultimate good." (pg. 62) --- Are there things God wants you to give up? People He wants you to surrender to Him? Relationships or ministries He wants you to end? The author says the hardest thing God asked of him was for Bruce to give God ownership of his wife and children.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

He calls me 'friend'!!!

"Put relationship with Me first." ~ God

God wants to spend time with me! God wants to be my friend!

"His purpose is not that you will do more for Him but that you will choose to be more with Him. Only by abiding can you enjoy the most rewarding friendship with God and experience the greatest abundance for His glory."

(pg. 96)

Secrets of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gotta love these guys!

Super-sweet messages today from two different friends. These make my heart melt. :-)

Susanne ,probably i was some how tough ,
[5:06:51 PM] But beleive me
[5:07:14 PM] I dont think that i have any friend like you ,out side Damascus
[5:07:31 PM] Really proud to know you


I never imagined that a Republican Evangelical American would show it clear to me that she loves my people with all her heart and she wants the best to all of them

Awwww! Made my day!

Utterly Meaningless & Chasing After the Wind

Have you ever heard a song, read a book or watched something on TV and thought, "Oh, wow, that is so me?!" Well, I have been reading through the Bible lately not even skipping those lists of names and laws and tabernacle requirements! So today I finished the last 15 chapters in Psalms, skipped Proverbs because I read it earlier (no, I'm not reading in exact order though I have read most of the OT in order) and thought I'd breeze through some of Ecclesiastes without a lot of reflection.

Only I couldn't because I identified so much with "the Teacher" who wrote Ecclesiastes! I've long identified my melancholic tendencies and my thinking that being a bit pessimistic about life will at least protect me from crushing disappointments. After all if you don't expect the best, you won't be crushed when the best never happens. Right? And, of course, if the best surprises us and comes, then whoop dee doo -- all the more reason to celebrate!

So I'm reading through Ecclesiastes thinking, "Wow, this is me. Yep, that sounds so true. Amen, Teacher, I hear ya!" And that was only through the first 5 chapters. Which I decided needed to be reread so I could absorb the message more and reflect on what is being said.

Now, I have been under biblical teaching long enough to know the writer starts his lesson one way yet comes to a great conclusion. But for now, I am going to write a few things from the chapters I've read so far, roughly the first half of the book.

The first words from the Teacher:

2 "Meaningless! Meaningless!"
says the Teacher.
"Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless."

Perhaps you are unlike me. You have children, a fulfilling job, delightful hobbies, lots of fun stuff to keep you hopping from morning 'til night when you fall into blissful slumber anticipating the new adventures awaiting your morning wake-up call. I realize many people are fulfilled in life and it seems especially that many mothers find this fulfillment in their children. Maybe not, but as I said it seems that way to me.

So anyway, I see the Teacher speaking of life. You get up, do your work, accumulate your stuff, dust your stuff, tend to your family, go to bed and then get up the next day and do it all over again. And the next day. And the next. Until you get to the weekend where the days have a bit more variety. Sometimes. But I see his point. I've thought the same way over the years, and maybe others have as well: "Is this all there is to life?"

The Teacher said he learned and acquired wisdom, he laughed, drank wine and embraced folly. (Have you embraced your folly today? Ha, ha.) He built houses, made gardens and parks and even acquired silver and gold, flocks and slaves -- all sorts of stuff. He said he denied himself nothing that his eyes desires and refused his heart no pleasures (Ecc. 2:10), yet he concluded:

11 Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

He also declared that all his learning was for naught because the same fate awaits the wise and the fool --
"Like the fool, the wise man too must die!" (Ecc. 2:14)

Like the Teacher, I have, at times, thought never having been born or death were preferable to life. (See Ecclesiastes 4:1-3). Don't worry though. In no way am I or have I ever been suicidal! :-) Life generally is very good and I have never thought I was not blessed. I have, indeed, been greatly favored by God! (This post is really about me during my not-focusing-on-the-blessings-of-God-and-salvation-offered-by-Jesus times.)

I don't agree with the Teacher's conclusions about animals and humans (see Ecc. 3:18-21) because I believe humans have souls. And, in reality, I don't believe the Teacher thought this way as well because in the third chapter, he speaks these beautiful words:

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

So I wonder if anyone out there ever feels as if she, too, is chasing the wind. I want this gift of God mentioned in verse 13. Paul wrote that he found contentment in every state or condition in which he found himself (Phil. 4:11). But how??

My Quest Bible did have this note on "what gives contentment." I thought it was worth sharing here:

Concluding that life was meaningless, the Teacher advised going after as much pleasure as possible. "Live life to the full," he seems to say. "Work hard and play hard. Do whatever God enables you to do." His general pessimism, however, suggests the Teacher was unable to follow his own advice. Deep-thinking people often find that simple pleasures fail to satisfy. A better answer comes in the conclusion of the book: Contentment comes through a life of faith and obedience.

Prayer of Jabez - Dependence

I'm finishing up a few notes from the book I read on Sunday. Particularly note the last two phrases of this prayer as I write a few things from the book about dependence.

And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. -- I Chron. 4:10

This goes against my cultural upbringing. In America we highly value our independence and individuality and our rights to the extent that being a dependent person has negative connotations. How often have I come across articles on codependency and ever seen that in a positive light? So reading these things is challenging.

In The Prayer of Jabez, author Bruce Wilkinson recalls a time when he had prayed this prayer and God started blessing and giving him more responsibility as He "enlarged his territory." Bruce recalls how with this added responsibility came the feeling of helplessness because he felt ill-equipped to handle everything. So he talked to an older, wiser man and poured out his heart to him about these feelings he was having. After listening for a while, the older gentlemen replied with kindness, "'Son,...that feeling you are running from is called dependence. It means you're walking with the Lord Jesus. . . Actually, the second you're not feeling dependent is the second you've backed away from truly living by faith.'" (pg. 47)

The author also reminds us, "God's power under us, in us, surging through us is exactly what turns dependence into unforgettable experiences of completeness." As Paul writes in II Corinthians 3:5-6,

5Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God. 6He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

(pg. 53)

The author writes: "Ask for the Father's touch. Because for the Christian, dependence is just another word for power." (pg. 61)

So how fitting is it that I checked my e-mail this morning and saw my brother had sent me Little Is Much When God Is In It?

Mr. Wilkinson reminds us how often people will be blessed by God and forget that this blessing came from Him. He quotes from another, "blessedness is the greatest of perils because 'it tends to dull our keen sense of dependence on God and make us prone to presumption.'" (pg. 64)

The more God blesses you and starts using you for His glory, the more Satan will attack you with "the enemy's unwelcome barbs -- distraction, opposition and oppression, for starters. In fact, if your experience is anything but that, be concerned." (pg. 64)

One final thing to share from this book and it addresses what I wrote at the beginning about my culture. The author asks,

Do we really understand how far the American Dream is from God's dream for us? We're steeped in a culture that worships freedom, independence, personal rights, and the pursuit of pleasure. We respect people who sacrifice to get what they want. But to be a living sacrifice? To be crucified to self? Like Jabez, we should plead to be kept from the powerful pull of what feels right to us but is wrong." (pg. 70)

Wow, yes, that definitely is a powerful pull! I like that: "what feels right to us but is wrong." I suppose this is why feelings can't always be trusted, and we need the absoluteness that is God! As I've heard my preacher say, "I don't feel saved until I've had my coffee in the morning." Thank goodness, salvation is not based on our feelings! My feelings are often all over the place!

I am glad I "happened to find" this book lying so innocently as a decoration on my inlaws' coffee table on Sunday. It was short, but challenging and worth the hour or so that it took to read.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Prayer of Jabez - More Ministry

In his prayer, Jabez asks God to "enlarge his territory." In his book, The Prayer of Jabez, Bruce Wilkinson equates this as someone wanting more of an influence or ministry for God. I am at this place in my life right now so this especially struck a chord with me. I like this that he wrote:

God is looking for people who want to do more ..., because sadly, most believers seem to shrink from living at this level of blessing and influence. For most of us, our reluctance comes from getting our numbers right, but our arithmetic completely wrong. For example, when we're deciding what size territory God has in mind for us, we keep an equation in our heart that adds up something like this:

My abilities + experience + training + my personality and appearance + my past + the expectations of others = my assigned territory.

No matter how many sermons we've heard about God's power to work through us, we simply gloss over the meaning of that one little word through. Sure, we say we want God to work through us, but what we really mean is by or in association with. . . . Our God specializes in working through normal people who believe in a supernormal God who will do His work through them. What He's waiting for is the invitation. That means God's math would look more like this:

My willingness and weakness + God's will and supernatural power = my expanding territory. (pg. 40-41)

That's really something to be quite joyful about because when I focus on equation #1 -- which I do all the time -- I really feel discouraged because of all the qualities I lack.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Prayer of Jabez - Bless Me

Not so long ago I was reading through Chronicles and I recall the name chapters which I found rather tedious. (Although, according to Joni, I did find my Bible gangsta name in there!) Still, I recall those weird names, those bizarre names and those how-in-the-world-do-you-pronounce-these names! And then. There was something more than just a name ... a mini biography if you will and the prayer of Jabez.

9 Now Jabez was more honorable than his brothers, and his mother called his name Jabez, "Because I bore him in pain.” 10 And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, “Oh, that You would bless me indeed, and enlarge my territory, that Your hand would be with me, and that You would keep me from evil, that I may not cause pain!” So God granted him what he requested. -- I Chronicles 4

"Ah, I remember that. There was a popular book with that name several years back."

I read the prayer never before realizing that it was stuck amongst a huge list of Hebrew names.

Fast forward to today. We were at the inlaws' house after church. I'd set the table, read the paper, eaten lunch (hello, fried squash and peaches!), helped clear the table and put away the dishes. Then I was meandering around the living room and saw The Prayer of Jabez lying on the coffee table. Andrew was watching a bit of TV so I picked up the book to see what it was like. It's a small book of only about 90 pages. I started reading. Wow, good stuff. I read over half of it then and finished it just a bit ago. It only took about an hour to read the whole thing.

About blessings, the author reminds us that we "bless" missionaries, kids, the food we are about to eat and even sneezes! Blessing has gotten "watered down" into something akin to "have a nice day." However, "to bless in the biblical sense means to ask for or to impart supernatural favor. . . . We are crying out for the wonderful, unlimited goodness that only God has the power to know about or give us." (pg. 23). The author, Bruce Wilkinson, tells us it is not selfish to pray this because God wants us to ask for His blessing. (See Matthew 7:7 & James 4:2). So pray for God to bless you -- indeed. Which is like adding five exclamation points or writing it in all caps and underlining it!

Perhaps tomorrow I will share a few other lessons I learned from this book.

P.S. Andrew saw this book lying here and asked what The Prayer of Jezebel was about. Hehehehe....Jezebel?

Friday, June 12, 2009

Cheers from London!

Today I was a bit irritated and down when leaving the house, but I checked my mailbox and noticed a postcard. It was from London and it brought a HUGE grin to my face! Instant happiness thanks to kind words from a friend! :-)

I picked up Michael because we were going to McDonald's. When we arrived there I showed him the postcard.

Me-- "Look, Michael, I got this today from London!"

Michael -- "England?"

Me -- "Yep, one of my friends sent it to me and surprised me!"

Michael -- "You have friends from all over the world, don't you? I have friends down the street and you have friends all over the world!"

Me -- "Well, you have family in Venezuela."

Michael -- "Yes, but we were talking about friends, not family."

Hehehe..true. Well, that was such a nice surprise and really cheered my heart.

After getting the postcard today from Louai, thoughts from Proverbs such as these came to mind:

24 Pleasant words are a honeycomb,
sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.

Because definitely his postcard lifted my spirits!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Goals & Final Challenge

Final notes from Wild Goose Chase . . .

"You won't accomplish any of the goals you do not set." (pg. 160)

"We need to dream God-sized dreams . . . not because we need to make a name for ourselves -- selfish goals always result in shallow victories. We need to dream God-sized dreams because they're the only things that will drive us to our knees and keep us living in absolute dependence upon God the way we were designed to." (pg. 160)

Mark encourages us to set goals. Remember the Bible says where there is no vision, the people perish. Mark reminds us that Jesus was a goal setter. In fact, His God-sized goal was huge: "'Go into all the world and proclaim the Good News to everyone, everywhere.'" (pg. 161)

In the final part Mark asks, "You've been comfortable long enough, haven't you? Isn't it time to come out of the cage?" And follows this with this reminder:

"And remember, ultimately it's not about you. It's about the One who wants to write His-story through your life. A world in desperate need can't do without what you will bring when you become part of something that is bigger than you and more important than you: the cause of Christ in this generation. The stakes could not be higher. And like the first-century disciples, we have the opportunity to turn the world upside down." (pg. 170)

Finished the book. Wow, who knew I could write so many posts about one book with fewer than 200 pages? :-)

Indecision, One-Way Missionaries, Light & The Walk

The final chapter of Wild Goose Chase deals with the cage of fear . . .

"Most of us are far too tentative when it comes to the will of God. We let our fears dictate our decisions. We are so afraid of making the wrong decision that we make no decision. And what we fail to realize is that indecision is a decision . . . that keeps us in the cage. . . . [Remember] nothing ventured, nothing gained." (pg. 144)

I greatly enjoyed the examples Mark gave of people who had gone into dangerous situations in order to do the will of God. Mark believes most of us think our purpose in life is to arrive safely at death, however he challenges us to think differently. He told about A.W. Milne and other "one-way missionaries" who went to countries knowing they likely would never return home. Milne went to a tribe of headhunters in New Hebrides where all former missionaries had been killed. However he felt called to go and obeyed. "He lived among the tribe for thirty-five years and never returned home. When the tribe buried him, they wrote the following epitaph on his tombstone: 'When he came there was no light. When he left there was no darkness.'" (pg. 149) What a way to live with an eternal perspective in mind!

Mark told of a friend who invaded the porn industry in order to spread Christ's light. Then speaking frankly, Mark declared: "If we are going to fulfill our ancient commission, we need to get out of the comfortable confines of our Christian ghettos and invade some hellholes with the light and love of Christ." Then he gives us this quote from C.T. Studd: "'Some want to live within the sound of church or chapel bell; I want to run a rescue shop within a yard of hell.'" (pg. 150)

What do you think of this false assumption?

"We subconsciously think it should get easier the longer we follow Christ. Let me push back a little. I certainly believe that some dimensions of spiritual growth get easier with the consistent practice of spiritual disciplines. But I also believe that spiritual growth prepares us for more dangerous missions. As we grow, God gives us more difficult things to do." (pg. 150)

Many good things to consider. I know I've often desired the comfort of life rather than wishing to live dangerously. But I believe I am a-changin' on that front! Hope so anyway. Maybe I'll change my mind tomorrow...yikes! And I agree with this final statement by Mark. I think we do tend to believe that the Christian life should be easier as we grow in it. Like the hard assignments are in the early years and we should go towards some more relaxing, retirement type of place in our walk eventually. Hmmm. I wonder why I think that way.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Journey Is Important,Too

More from Wild Goose Chase ... good thing this book only has 8 chapters. I have written so much about it already! But there is so much gooooood stuff that I want to remember!

"Getting where God wants me to go isn't nearly as important as becoming who God wants me to be in the process. And God seems to be far less concerned with where I'm going than with who I'm becoming. I think some of us want to know the will of God more than we want to know God. And it short-circuits spiritual growth. You can't do the will of God if you don't have the heart of God." (pg. 137)

"In the words of George Bernard Shaw, 'People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don't believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want and if they can't find them, make them.' But it goes beyond that. You not only need to make the most of your circumstances; you also have to realize that God is in them. And He is capable of working them together for your good. It doesn't matter how long the delay or detour, He can make them work together for good." (pg. 141-142)

"'The unpredictable twists and turns of life can drive you crazy. Or you can learn to enjoy the journey.' Where are you right now -- insane or having an insane amount of fun?" (pg. 142)

This was interesting because I know quite often I feel as if I am just marking time waiting for God to reveal what I'm supposed to DO. Reading this reminded me that the process is also important. Perhaps even more than "the final destination." While waiting on God, I am drawing closer to Him and getting to better know Him and His heart.

Will of God, Divine Appts., Following the Wind, Open Doors

More from Wild Goose Chase

"We put so much pressure on ourselves, as if the eternal plans of almighty God are contingent upon our ability to decipher them. The truth is, God wants to reveal them more than we want to know them. And if we think one misstep can frustrate the providential plans of the Omnipotent One, then our God is way too small. Not only does God want us to get where God wants us to go more than we want to get where God wants us to go, but He is awfully good at getting us there. He may not always reveal His plans how or when we want Him to. But when we chase the Wild Goose, our future becomes His responsibility. 'In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps.'" (pg. 129)

Wow! That's freeing! I think I really had that mindset that it was up to ME somehow to figure out God's mind and, ooops!, I'd better not make a wrong step or I could never be redeemed... well, I could, but I couldn't do what God had planned for me originally. Hmmm.

I love the part where Mark discusses divine appointments. In referring to one that happened while a group from his church was visiting a Spanish-speaking country, Mark writes, "God knows no spatial or chronological limitations. Setting up divine appointments in a different hemisphere is as simple for God as setting up a divine appointment with your next-door neighbor." (pg. 132)

I can attest to that since God brought people into my life whom I never thought to look for. And He brought them in such an unexpected way. And while we may be in the same hemisphere, the Atlantic Ocean and the continent of Africa separate us!

Reminding us of Jesus' words about the Spirit's connection to the wind, Mark writes: "Chasing the Wild Goose is recognizing which way the wind of the Spirit is blowing and responding to it. It requires a moment-by-moment sensitivity to the Wild Goose. And you have to trust His promptings more than you trust your own plans. Instead of getting frustrated by fighting the wind, you appreciate the fact that something uncontrollable and unpredictable will get you where God wants you to go." (pg. 134)

Remember the verse from Revelation 3 about open doors (emphasis mine):

7"To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
These are the words of him who is holy and true, who holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 8I know your deeds. See, I have placed before you an open door that no one can shut.

Thanks for bringing that to my attention, Mark!

Failure, Dependence & Disorientation as Good Things!

From Wild Goose Chase, chapter entitled "Sometimes It Takes a ShipWreck" . . .

"Failure teaches us our most valuable lessons. It takes us from taking the credit for or taking for granted later successes. We make the all-important discovery that even when we fall flat on our faces, God is right there to pick us back up again. And failure also has a way of opening us up to other options." (pg. 118)

"While our failed plans can be incredibly discouraging and disorienting, God often uses the things that seem to be taking us off our course to keep us on His course." (pg. 122)

"Few things are as disorienting as in-between times -- between jobs, between relationships, or between a rock and a hard place. But nothing rattles the cage like a bad diagnosis, a pink slip, or divorce papers. They cause the compass needle to spin. And we feel lost because our plans and our lives fall apart. But the upside is that it causes us to seek God with a raw intensity that cannot be manufactured any other way. Disorientation has a way of driving us to our knees. And that is one reason why the bad things that happen to us can actually turn into the best things that happen to us." (pg. 123)

This is very true. It's usually during those very rough seasons that I seek God's word on matters more. And I seek His reassurance and encouragement as well.

Mark reminded us that while a healthy parent-child relationship moves from dependence to independence, the opposite is true in a godly relationship. Instead of living independently of God (which makes us servants of sin so it's not true independence), God desires to move us to total dependence on Him. Thus disorientation "is natural and healthy... a normal part of chasing the Wild Goose. We won't know exactly where we're going much of the time, but that disorientation develops our dependence upon God. And it is our dependence upon God, not our best-laid plans, that will get us where God wants us to go." (pg. 127)

Can you think of times of failure or disorientation in your life that lead to something you didn't imagine? A new direction in life perhaps? Maybe if you don't have a personal example, you can think of someone you know. I'm going walking now and will think on it.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

A Forbidden Country

Proof of US sanctions at work.

Trying to download Google Talk:

This product is not available in your country

Thanks for your interest, but the product that you're trying to download is not available in your country.

One of the kindest people I ever met was accepted to study in Germany, but needs first to open a bank account there for visa requirements:

Hello Sir,

I'm very sorry, but Deutsche Bank does not open any accounts for people from Syria.

Maybe there is a chance to get an account in another bank in Germany.

Mit freundlichen Gruessen / Kind regards

Deutsche Bank Privat- und Geschaeftskunden AG

An American woman living in Syria, wrote a bit about it: A Forbidden Country

On What Words Reveal & Redemptive Speech

I was reading an old Beacon Beam from August 2002 and came across a short article about a book, War of Words by Paul David Tripp. The article writer said something that I wanted to copy here.

Our words reveal what idols lie buried in our hearts. "The people and situations around us do not make us say what we say; they are only the occasion for our hearts to reveal themselves in words." And what do these words say about our hearts? That they are full of selfishness! "Where do you think all these appalling wars and quarrels come from? ... They come about because you want your own way, and fight for it deep inside yourselves" (James 4:1-2). It's a root and fruit issue. Our words are the fruit produced by the root of a sinful determination to have our own way.

Other chapters deal with "teaching a new agenda for our talk" beginning "with the fact that God is the King: 'He is in charge of it all, has the final word on everything ...' Since God's design is to make us like himself, we must conclude that the relationships we live with are part of the plan. ... Since God is King, we are his agents; and when we speak, we may not speak for ourselves, but rather as a spokesman for the King." This includes family, friends, coworkers, strangers " the irritating telemarketer and the slow clerk at the grocery store!" "Our agenda must match his...and God's agenda is redemption! Redemptive speech buys back a situation from the enemy, turning it around and using it as an opportunity to accomplish the purposes of the King."

This really made me think! There are a number of times when certain words come to mind or out my mouth when I react to a situation in anger or frustration. And how many of us are guilty of talking about situations not realizing how it's our desires, our saving face, our selfishness that makes what someone else did so much more unbearable to us?

And those words "redemptive speech" -- incredible. How often can my words be categorized that way? What a challenge for me today.

Go and speak redemptively!

On churches, guilt and grace that is freeing

From Wild Goose Chase ... the chapter on the cage of guilt.

"Let's be honest, the church can be the most pretentious place on earth. We are afraid of revealing our imperfections and dysfunctions. We're afraid of revealing our painful scars and sinful secrets. And that is why so many people are so lonely. I've met people who feel like they have to get their act together before coming to God. Where did that ludicrous logic come from? That's like suggesting you have to get healthy before going to see a doctor. It makes no sense. The church needs to be a safe place where we can reveal our worst sins. Anything less is hypocrisy." (pg. 112-113)

"Guilt has a shrinking effect. It shrinks our dreams. It shrinks our relationships. It shrinks our hearts. It shrinks our lives to the size of our greatest failures.

Grace has the opposite effect. It expands our dreams. It expands our relationships. It expands our hearts. And it gives us the courage to chase the Wild Goose all the way to the ends of the earth." (pg. 114)

Think about Peter denying our Lord three times prior to Jesus' crucifixion. Then remember how the resurrected Jesus commissioned Peter to feed His sheep. And remember in the book of Acts how Peter was used greatly by the Lord. Grace is freeing.

True Love

"If you want to impact someone's life, love them when they least expect it and least deserve it. When people blow it, you have an opportunity to impact their lives forever. You might think, But they don't deserve it. That's the point isn't it? Do you deserve the grace of God?" (pg. 104)

"God's love is proactive. He doesn't wait for us to get our act together. God always makes the first move. And we're called to follow suit." (pg. 105)

Remember, even while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

And, we love Him because He first loved us. (I John 4:19)

from Wild Goose Chase

Yes, but do you REACT like a Christian?

From Wild Goose Chase . . .

In my experience, it is much easier to act like a Christian than it is to react like one. Most of us are good actors -- we can play the part. But our reactions reveal who we really are. And maybe that's why Jesus focused so much of His teaching on reconditioning reflexes.

Pray for those who persecute you.

Love your enemies.

Bless those who curse you.

If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles.

If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

(pg. 99)

Mark hit the nail on the head! I find this so true. I can be going around "perfectly holy" all day, and then someone does something to me or something doesn't go how I'd planned and the reactionary self rears its head and too often takes over and replaces my "perfectly holy" mask.

Good stuff!

Monday, June 8, 2009

On Assumptions, Faith & Logic

From chapter 4 of Wild Goose Chase

"Don't put an eight-foot ceiling on what [God] can do." (pg. 74)

"Faith is not logical. But it isn't illogical either. Faith is theological. It does not ignore reality; it just adds God into the equation. . . . Faith is not mindless ignorance; it simply refuses to limit God to the logical constraints of the left brain." (pg. 79)

"It's never too late to become who you might have been." (pg. 79)

"Living generously is way too fun and way too exciting. Too many of us allow a scarcity mentality to keep us in the cage. We assume that the more we give, the less we'll have. That's an unbiblical assumption." (pg. 87)

"Abraham is the patron saint of Wild Goose chases. He had no idea where he was going, but he did not let that keep him in the cage. By faith he ventured into the unknown. He left behind his family, his home, and his assumptions." (pg. 90)

Wouldn't it be wonderful to have that kind of faith? Wow.

Ordinary Stuff

I'm still in that chapter about the ordinary so I figured I should use a color I don't ordinarily use! I wonder if this color will even show up. :-)

Here are a few more good things from chapter 3.

Mark mentions we often need a change of pace -- as in, don't be in such a hurry because when we are in a rush, we often see divine appointments as human interruptions.

"Spontaneity is an underappreciated dimension of spirituality. In fact, spiritual maturity has less to do with long-range visions than it does with moment-by-moment sensitivity to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. And it is our moment-by-moment sensitivity to the Holy Spirit that turns life into an everyday adventure." (pg. 58)

"Who you are isn't the issue; the issue is whose you are." (pg. 65)

"[T]he only way you discover a new identity is by letting an old one go. And the only way you'll find your securities in Christ is by throwing down the human securities we tend to cling to." (pg. 66)

"If you find your security outside of Christ, you have a false sense of security [and] ... identity." (pg. 67)

"Your success isn't contingent upon what's in your hand. Your success is contingent upon whether God extends His mighty hand on your behalf." (pg. 67)

Mark used the example of Moses being told to throw down his staff. His staff represented his identity as a shepherd. If Moses refused to get rid of that identity would he have been the man God used to deliver the Israelites from Egypt?

Things to consider anyway.

What do you take for granted?

In Wild Goose Chase, the author states that "we take constants for granted" (pg. 42) and gives examples that include even God! Because He is constantly loving unconditionally, faithfully blessing us and just being our kind Sustainer, we often take God for granted. Other things we take for granted may include the air we breathe, health, freedom, food, even sunrises.

I wonder if people who live in majestic places such as this take it for granted. I hope not! But I've met people from Asheville who told me they just took living in the beautiful mountains for granted. I guess they grew up there and didn't realize the specialness of it until they met us flat-landers.

Here is something I read from chapter 3, "Dictatorship of the Ordinary," last night:

"You never know when or where the Wild Goose is going to invade the routine of your life." (pg. 45)

Mark gives the example of Moses tending sheep on the backside of the desert. Here was a man miraculously saved at his birth and schooled in the palaces of Egypt yet he fled as a fugitive after he killed an Egyptian taskmaster. So Moses fled and tended sheep for forty years. I wonder if he ever thought God would use him. It is neat to think of Moses going through his routine day and ending up talking with God in a burning bush! How his life changed that day and likely he never saw it coming!

So I am anticipating God invading the routine of my life. It's a wonderful thought!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Power, Pride, Downfall

II Chronicles 26 tells us this about Judah's king:

16 But after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense.

If you wish, you can read the remainder of the chapter to see how Uzziah's life ended and what he became proud about. I think the first sentence of this verse contains a lesson for us all. How often today does it seem as if people get power and then they are proud and corrupted.

Tooooooo often.

Lord, save us from our pride. May we always realize our help comes from You (Psalm 121) and without You we can do nothing (John 15:5).

"Christianity was always intended to be a verb"

In Wild Goose Chase Mark says there are times we need to quit praying and do something. You don't have to pray about loving a neighbor, serving others or meeting a need. Those are all things we know to do already.

When Christianity turns into a noun, it becomes a turnoff. Christianity was always intended to be a verb. And, more specifically, an action verb. The title of the book of Acts says it all, doesn't it? It's not the books of Ideas or Theories or Words. It's the book of Acts. . . . Some of us live as if we expect to hear God say, "Well thought, good and faithful servant!" or "Well said, good and faithful servant!" . . . There is only one commendation, and it's the by-product of pursuing God-ordained passions: "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (pg. 29)

If you feel you are presently stuck in something that is not your God-ordained passion while waiting for the Holy Spirit , Mark encourages you to do your very best at whatever God has you doing presently.

Mark wishes to do something he is not capable of doing so that people can see that GOD did it. It was something the Lord did through Mark, not something Mark did in his own power. This reminds me of a lesson I learned while reading Experiencing God last year. Mark also reminded me that faith requires stepping out while not being sure. If we were 100% sure of the next step, there would be no need for faith! Signs of confirmation often follow our stepping out in faith.

I think I will walk now and mull over this stuff I've read today. The book is an easy read, but packed with thought-provoking material so I am reading it slowly. Much to chew on in these pages.

"What makes you pound your fist on the table?"

This next part really touched a nerve because I tend to be an emotional person. So it was great to read that God perhaps works through our emotions at times? Hmmm. That's what I gleaned from this next bit. What do you think?

Mark writes, "Supernatural sadness and righteous indignation often reveal our God-ordained passions. As in the case of Nehemiah, if something causes you to weep and mourn and fast and pray for days on end, it is a good indication that God wants you to take personal responsibility and do something about it. . . . So what makes you cry? What makes you pound your fist on the table? And let me add one more question to the mix: what makes you smile? If you want to discover your God-ordained passions, then you need to identify what makes you sad, mad or glad. And somewhere in the sadness, madness, or gladness you will find the Wild Goose waiting for you."

And get this . . .

"God-ordained passions often break our hearts. And they can seem like an overwhelming burden to bear. But pursuing our passions is the key to living a fruitful and fulfilling life. It is the thing that wakes us up early in the morning and keeps us up late at night. It is the thing that turns a career into a calling. It is the thing that gives us goose bumps - Wild Goose bumps. And nothing will bring you greater joy." (pgs. 22 & 23)

So what breaks your heart? What desires are in your heart as you delight in the Lord? Anything coming to mind?

Mark uses the illustration of conception to explain how God's desires multiply in our lives as we delight in Him and as we pray. "Wild Goose chases often start out as single-cell desires. Something unexplainable or inexpressible gets conceived in your spirit. . . . When we delight ourselves in the Lord, new desires are conceived within us. God literally downloads new desires. And those divine desires become an internal compass that guides us as we embark on a Wild Goose chase." (pg. 25)

Marks says we never know how this God-ordained passion will be conceived. It could be a mission trip, youth camp, conversation with someone, while reading a book or like Nehemiah, hearing news from a brother. I believe those times come when you are least expecting them. Like when someone from a foreign country -- an Axis of Evil country even! -- contacts you on a social-networking site and from that you gain new friendships, new experiences and new God-ordained passions in life. As least, that's my story. I wonder, what is yours?

Pursuing a passion or settling for a paycheck?

I'm finding I cannot read long without finding lots of thought-provoking sentences in this book! Here are more questions and good stuff from Wild Goose Chase. This in the section of the cage of responsibility.

Are you pursuing a passion or settling for a paycheck? "Your greatest responsibility is pursuing God-ordained passions." (pg. 17)

Have you turned your responsibilities into excuses? See Luke 9:59-60

"Sometimes the will of God seems downright irresponsible You are called to make a decision or take a course of action that seems to make no sense. And if you do it, the people closest to you may think you are crazy. . . . But responsible irresponsibility means refusing to allow your human responsibilities to get in the way of pursuing the passions God puts in your heart." (pg. 18)

Mark uses Nehemiah's passion for rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem as an example. I love the example of Nehemiah because I wrote about him previously and God used Nehemiah's passion to lead me to dream big -- and we went to Syria! I still am so happy we did that and I'd go back in a heartbeat! I loved it there!

Mark believes "[w]hen God puts a passion in your heart, whether it be relieving starvation in Africa or educating children in the inner city or making movies with redemptive messages, that God-ordained passion becomes your responsibility." (pg. 20) That's when we have to choose between settling for a paycheck or pursuing the passion God put in our hearts.

"[P]ursuing a God-ordained passion, no matter how crazy it seems, is the most responsible thing you can do." (pg. 22)

What do you think so far? What is your passion in life? More to come.

"Yawning Angels"

Here are a few thoughts from chapter 1 in Wild Goose Chase by Mark Batterson.

Mark is convinced "many, if not most, Christians are bored with their faith." (pg. 8)

Mark claims "Jesus didn't die on the cross to keep us safe. He died to make us dangerous." (pg. 6)

Marks asks when have we prayed for God to make us dangerous? Then he says when he prays the benediction at the end of each church service, "I would like to think . . . I am sending dangerous people back into their natural habitat to wreak havoc on the Enemy."

This leads me to list the six cages Mark believes most of us are in. Later chapters discuss these in more detail. They are the cages of responsibility, routine, assumption, guilt, failure and fear.

The "fear" cage
reminds me of Secret Believers: What Happens When Muslims Believe in Christ which I read earlier this year. Brother Andrew reminded us that Jesus told us to go. He never said we would come back. And Mark said this challenging thing: "We need to quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death. Instead we need to start playing offense with our lives. The world needs more daring people with daring plans. Why not you?" (pg. 13) Love that!!! Yes, why not be daring! C'mon, Susanne!

I am tired of being bored and am ready for the adventure of chasing the Wild Goose! Oh, in case you were wondering about this Wild Goose, let me explain. The Celtic Christians called the Holy Spirit "An Geadh-Glas, or ' the Wild Goose.' . . . The name hints at the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit. Much like a wild goose, the Spirit of God cannot be tracked or tamed. An element of danger and an air of unpredictability surround Him. . . . I wonder if we [institutional Christianity] have clipped the wings of the Wild Goose and settled for something less -- much less -- than what God originally intended for us" (pg. 1).

Isn't that good? I'll end this post with this quote which spoke to me so strongly as I read it last night. Remember I started this book just as I'd been complaining about my purposeless life.

"[W]e have a primal longing to be uncaged." (pg. 6)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Wow, God!

I have been in the most blah, need-a-purpose-in-life stages this week. Seriously. I miss my gym people from last year. I miss my McDonald's friends from years gone by. I miss preparing for a trip to Damascus. I miss Damascus! I miss, I miss, I miss. I need something! I don't mind being alone. I need some alone time. But, I declare, I spend, ohhhhhh, 90% of my life alone and I am getting kind of tired of just hanging around ME all the time. Borrrrrring!

So I've been complaining to God about how bored I am with my life and then I pick up this book and start reading and - wow! - it was written just for me! I know it! Mark Batterson captured me with the first few pages. And what's really fantastic is this from page 13, "I want you to know that before you decided to read this book I started praying for you. I prayed that Wild Goose Chase would get into the right hands at the right time. So I hope this book is more than a casual read for you. It's a divine appointment waiting to happen."


What are the odds? Yay, God!!

I am so ready for the adventure!! Whoo hoo!

One Year, One Day

Whoo hoo....just realized that yesterday marked 1 year since my first post on this blog.

Thrilling, I know.

"Greedy Romans were not converted by greedy Christians"

Speaking of the early church's willingness to suffer persecution with an attitude of love, grace and forgiveness, the director of Voice of the Martyrs writes this in the June issue:

"The fact that early Christians were beaten and many times lost their property was only an additional reason to rejoice in faith. We realize that greedy Romans were not converted by greedy Christians."

As Jesus pointed out anyone can love someone who treats her well. Even heathens do that. What marks us as different is our love for enemies and how we respond to evil with good. The early church was an effective witness because of its response to adversity. We should ask, are people today not seeing Christ in us because like them, we are also greedy?

60 years!

Today marks 60 years that Mema and Pop have been married! Huge congrats to them!

When Stephanie told Michael that Mema and Pop may move up here this summer, Michael grinned and replied with confidence, "Oh, they will be glad to see me!"