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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

How we relate to God & the return of "the eds"

Snowed: at my house overnight -- this is noteworthy for the sunny South :)
Remembered: Last year when we were visiting Paul's and St. Ananias' chapels in Old Damascus on this day
Watched: This wonderful Why Do You Fear Me? event from Thursday night in Colorado featuring Carl Medearis (lover of Muslims, Arabs, the Middle East & Jesus!), former SC governor David Beasley and Christian novelist Ted Dekker
Discussed: a challenging chapter - The Blind Man and Zacchaeus - on reaching out to the oppressed & oppressor from the book, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes
Enjoyed: seeing the neighborhood children sled and ride four wheelers in the snow
Borrowed: this thing about how people relate to God; with permission from Eva at A Thought Chronicle & her friend Rochelle who summarized this from Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas - thank you, Ladies

Read through these and see which describes you best.

Sacred Pathways by Gary Thomas

“Sacred pathways…describes the way we relate to God, how we draw near to him.”

Naturalist: Loving God Out of Doors

· Naturalists are moved by creation. They believe nature clearly point to God. Creation prompts them to worship. They believe that looking at the ordinary helps to reveal some of the mystery of God.

Sensates: Loving God with the Senses

· Sensates “want to be lost in the awe, beauty, and splendor of God”. Sights, sounds, and smells are all part of worship. They use the five senses to delight in God.

Traditionalists: Loving God through Ritual and Symbol

· Traditionalists are fed by the “historic dimensions of faith: rituals, symbols, sacraments, and sacrifice”. They find discipline, ritual, and structure nurishing.

Ascetics: Loving God in Solitude and Simplicity

· Ascetics “live a fundamentally internal existence”. They connect with God in the quite and with prayer. They do not want distractions.

Activists: Loving God Through Confrontation

· Activists “serve a God of justice”. They see worship as living against evil and calling sinners to repent. They focus on living truth and confronting injustice to change society.

Caregivers: Loving God by Loving Others

· Caregivers “serve God by serving others”. They see Jesus in the needy. Caring for others is energizing and they love God through loving others through service.

Enthusiasts: Loving God with Mystery and Celebration

· Enthusiasts need “excitement and mystery in worship…joyful celebration.” They want to experience, feel and be moved by God.

Contemplatives: Loving God through Adoration

· Contemplatives see God in “images of a loving Father and Bridegroom.” They seek simply to love God deeply.

Intellectuals: Loving God with the Mind

· Intellectuals like to study doctrines and “live in the world of concepts.” For them faith is to “be understood as much as experienced.”


What pathway do you primarily use to draw near to God? Why?

Which have you rarely used? Why?

Which would you like to try to incorporate into your life more? What would hinder you?

What is the benefit of approaching God in different ways?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Knowing and Trusting in the Love of God

So this week marks one year since we left NC for Syria. And ironically enough last night I read a brief article that reminded me of myself prior to our trip. People thought we were brave (or stupid?) for going to the Middle East, particularly a country known for all the terrorists hiding behind every tree....errr, well, we'd better change that to car since there really isn't that many trees in Damascus and we all know Damascus is teeming with terrorists, right?

But I never feared anything like that. Seriously. I honestly didn't much care what happened to me. I was more worried about finding food without nuts and western-style toilets!

I was more fearful of something happening to loved ones back home and my not being around to "save" them somehow.

And that's what the article dealt with.

Even though the article came to me about a year later than my Syria situation, in reality, I still have similar fears very often. So in that regard, it was timely.

The author talked about how her fear grew stronger the more she loved someone. You know, that fear that something will happen to a loved one and your imagination that there is absolutely no way life could go on if that horrible event actually occurred?

She was learning to deal with this fear and mentioned the verse in First John 4 about perfect love casting out fear. She also mentioned this verse which I read a few times and pondered:

16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

If I know the love of God, why not rely on it? Perhaps the problem is that I don't deep-down know that love well enough to trust it!

Basically I need to trust my loved ones to God. I don't know why I'd assume God would lure me to the Middle East only to then hurt my loved ones while I'm thousands of miles away. Do I really believe a God who claims to be love would purposefully be so cruel? Perhaps I just don't comprehend God's love. But then I can look to the cross and see that huge sacrifice. Hmmm.

I'd encourage you to read the section here on God's love and ours. It's quite beautiful.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

January Books

I did not read as many books this month and likely won't complete another before January ends. So here is what I did finish reading so far this year.

Wild Goose Chase
by Mark Batterson -- about following the Holy Spirit; see many previous posts with this label

Daughters of Islam
by Miriam Adeney -- "building bridges with Muslim women" -- I quoted from this book earlier this month. Here are just a few more notes I made from it.

Irin praying for God to show her the way and then her reading John 14:6. "Grandfather, heritage -- all were superseded. When God points the way, you go ..." -- pg. 145

What it's like to work with an American -- pg. 189 "Charging in to help ... we can trample fragile local patterns that have stood the test of time."

Manners and Customs of Bible Lands
by Fred Wight -- see this post for an introduction to this book which told of many interesting topics such as tents and houses, foods and their preparation for eating, customs at mealtimes, "the sacred duty of hospitality," dress, parents' position within the home, care of children, religion in the home, marriage customs, sickness and death, special events, shepherd life, growing and harvesting grain, care of vineyards, the olive and fig trees, trades and professions, music, cities, customs regarding property, domestic animals, traveling by land and sea, Palestine water supply, raids and blood-avenging, slavery in bible times and the Greek athletics and Roman gladiators.

Many great topics and interesting tidbits. I especially liked the part about slavery in Bible times and how the Levitical law gave many rights to slaves including the sabbath day off from working and celebration of special religious days. I learned that within this time in the world and in this culture, people often sold themselves as slaves to another in order to pay off debts. Within six years Hebrew slaves were freed and presented with cattle and fruit. Any time within those slavery years, a Hebrew slave could be "redeemed by relatives." (pg. 290) The author briefly discussed why the Mosaic law permitted slavery instead of abolishing it. He wrote: "When the laws were given at Mt. Sinai, slavery was universal among the nations of the world. It was not practical to do away with it all at once. Rather, laws were given to prevent the worst abuses and evils of it from being present among the Jews." He then went on to say how this worked among the Jews that by the time Christ appeared, slavery among the Jews had virtually disappeared.

The section about measuring grain and how "it is the custom that each measure must run over" was very interesting. The author described how the grain was pressed down, shaken and more was poured until the grain was running over. I liked this especially because it is how Jesus described giving in Luke 6:38. The description in this book made this verse come alive to me in a new way. (see pg. 223)

In the chapter "Education of Youth," I enjoyed the paragraph about the two rabbinical schools. Paul was from the school of Hillel which "placed tremendous emphasis upon Jewish oral traditions." By contrast Jesus was trained in the Shammai school "where there was less stress upon tradition, and more upon spiritual teachings of the law and prophets." This book claims that the unconverted Paul would have resented what Jesus told the Pharisees about their transgressing the commandment of God by their tradition (Matthew 15:3,6). - pg. 116

The part about schooling in Ur when Abraham was a boy was interesting. The author makes mention that "it is certain that Abraham and Sarah were familiar with the laws of Hammurabi, having been taught this Babylonian law code from their youth. The explanation for Sarah's action in giving her maid Hagar to Abraham as a secondary wife is that the law of Hammurabi allowed such to be done. Similar action was repeated in Jacob's family relations. But after the law of Moses came into being, this custom disappeared in Israel." -- pg. 113

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Jesus & "Sacred Languages"

"If your God is so great, why doesn't He speak our language?"

In 2008 I read a book that included this quote and it has stuck with me ever since. A man had given a Spanish Bible to a tribal lady in Latin America, and though Spanish was widely spoken in the area, she questioned why her local language was unknown by God. This question motivated the man to translate the Bible into the Cakchiquel tongue. Indeed God knows even these local dialects!

In Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, the author has this to say in relation to this Cakchiquel woman's question. I loved this! And hope you will as well!

Note: The Tefillah are a form of Jewish prayers beginning with "Hear, O Israel, the LORD our God is one LORD" and then a series of 18 standing prayers all of which are done in Hebrew.

Now this from author Kenneth Bailey:

The Tefillah are in Hebrew. The modern consensus among scholars is that the Lord's Prayer begins with the Aramaic word abba and therefore we can assume that Jesus taught his disciples to pray in the Aramaic of the daily communication rather than the classical Hebrew of written texts. The Aramaic-speaking Jew in the first century was accustomed to recite his prayers in Hebrew, not Aramaic. Similarly, Muslim worshipers always recite their traditional prayers in the classical Arabic of seventh-century Arabia. Both Judaism and Islam have a sacred language. Christianity does not. This fact is of enormous significance.

The use of Aramaic in worship was a major upheaval in the assumptions of Jesus' day. It meant that for Jesus no sacred language was "the language of God." . . .

Jesus lived in a world where the public reading of the Bible was only in Hebrew, and prayers had to be offered in that language. When Jesus took the giant step of endorsing Aramaic as an acceptable language for prayer and worship, he opened the door for the New Testament to be written in Greek (not Hebrew) and then translated into other languages.

It follows that if there is no sacred language, there is no sacred culture. All of this is a natural outgrowth of the incarnation. If the Word is translated from the divine to the human and becomes flesh, then the door is opened for that Word to again be translated into other cultures and languages. ... The long term result is a global church of more than two billion people, almost all of whom have the Bible available in their own language. Believers are thereby able to break into God's presence using the language of the heart. We are so accustomed to this heritage that we scarcely notice its beginning, which was Jesus' choice of Aramaic as the language of the Lord's Prayer. Jesus affirmed the translatability of the message when he began this prayer with the great word abba. (pg. 95)

Is this great news or what?!

I don't have to learn classical Hebrew or Arabic or any other "sacred language" in order to communicate with God. My Creator knows me -- and He understands my language!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Could This Be Righteousness?

"He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God." (Micah 6)

A couple of days ago I asked "but what exactly is righteousness" and a few of you shared your thoughts on that. Thanks much!

In that post I was quoting from Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes which is "cultural studies in the gospels," and now I want to share what author Kenneth E. Bailey had to say about hungering and thirsting after righteousness. I will try to summarize what he says on pages 78 to 81.

Referring to Micah 6:3-6 as one example, the author first tells us that "in biblical literature righteousness often refers to mighty acts of God in history to save." Not only does God's saving acts deliver Israel, but it also gives her a new status: being "declared righteous." That is, "vindicated" or "saved." "The unspeakable gracious gift of acceptance in the presence of God requires the faithful to respond." When we realize God has saved us and given our lives this special place, this wonderful relationship with Himself, we respond by saving others. That is, we act justly and that does not mean we merely give each one his due, but we show "mercy and compassion to the outcast, the oppressed, the weak, the orphan and the widow."

The author gives an example of Job who defends himself by saying:

14 I put on righteousness as my clothing;
justice was my robe and my turban.

15 I was eyes to the blind
and feet to the lame.

16 I was a father to the needy;
I took up the case of the stranger. (chapter 29)

Also the Suffering Servant whom Isaiah describes "will faithfully bring forth justice." (Isa. 42:3)

How God treated Israel in her need was the model for how the children of Israel were to treat others. Therefore, how God treats us in our need is how we are to treat others! Did God offer you forgiveness, kindness, compassion, mercy and unconditional love? Use that model in dealing with others. Was He a father to you, supplying for your needs, taking up your cause when you were a stranger? Go and do likewise.

So let's review. God saves. Therefore we are given a new status - saved, vindicated, affirmed righteous. In response to this new position, go and do as God did for you. Love others, show mercy, help the needy, reach out to the stranger and welcome the outcast. (Look at Jesus for an example!)

And what happens to those who hunger and thirst after righteousness?

This Beatitude concludes, "For they shall be satisfied." This is another case of the "divine passive." God is the one who will satisfy them. For many this is a strange idea. Popularly understood righteousness is no more than adherence to an ethical norm. The person who keeps the law, follows the accepted standards of the community and has an admirable personal life will be respected and thereby satisfied by the community. But if righteousness describes a relationship granted as a gift of God that brings peace, then only God can satisfy the longing for that righteousness and the approval or disapproval of the community is irrelevant. We are not righteous to please our peers but to show gratitude to God and maintain our relationship with him.

8 He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.

What do you think? Could this be righteousness?

Do you love God a little or a lot?

Last week I wrote a post about removing our masks and being real. I said that this theme seemed to be presenting itself quite a lot so far this year. And once again - yesterday - it was brought to mind. On the way to church there was a short segment on the radio about it and then I was reading a short devotional which I'll discuss in part now.

The devotional is from Luke 7:36-50 where Jesus is invited to a Pharisee's house and while they are eating a very sinful woman - likely a prostitute - starts washing his feet with her tears and hair, she kisses his feet and anoints them with a costly perfume. The Pharisee is stunned: this man associates with sinners! Ack! You can just feel the self-righteousness oozing out of his pores.

Knowing the Pharisees thoughts, Jesus then tells Simon a short story about two men owing money.

41"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. 42Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

43Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."
"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

So Simon answered the question correctly and then Jesus goes straight to applying this to Simon's life and the prostitute's life.

44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little."

Lovely, isn't it? The one who has been forgiven little, loves little. And she who has been forgiven lots, loves lots!

How does this relate to being real? Because one section of the devotional reminds us:

"Only the 'broken in spirit' grasp how vital and priceless the Lord's forgiveness is. The issue wasn't whether the woman's sins were greater than the Pharisee's. Rather, she understood her desperate need for Christ, which allowed her to love Him more. God is after authenticity; if we want a deeper relationship with Him, we must come as we are."

Ponder these verses with that in mind.

Psalm 51

17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

Matthew 9

10While Jesus was having dinner at Matthew's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" came and ate with him and his disciples. 11When the Pharisees saw this, they asked his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"

12On hearing this, Jesus said, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 13But go and learn what this means: 'I desire mercy, not sacrifice.' For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

The one who realizes his sinfulness and the depths from which God saved him loves God more. The "healthy" think they are OK, therefore, why do they really need to thank and love God?

Devotional from In Touch magazine, February 2010, pg. 15

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Be Still & Stop Talking So Much!

"Be still and know that I am God."
~ Psalm 46:10

We live in an age of words, don't we? Perhaps too many words. Especially in areas of the world where we are urged to voice our opinions and make our views known to anyone who will hear us. We have online news, blogs, newspapers, publications, books, magazines -- and those are just written words! Sometimes I experience information overload and just desire someone to give me what I want to know in a concise way. I don't want to sift through tons of websites for the facts. Sometimes all this information becomes way too much to handle and a straight-to-the-point article suffices quite nicely! Less is more, right?

In a chapter on the Lord's prayer, author Kenneth Bailey reminds us of the following advice that Jesus shared with his followers prior to teaching them how to pray.

Matthew 6

7 And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words.

The author then recalls that Jesus occasionally spent all night in prayer to his Father. An example of few words and then long nights of prayer? How does that work exactly? "Did prayer for Jesus include long periods of Spirit-filled silent communication with God that was beyond the need for words?"

The author continues:

"The Fathers of the Eastern Churches certainly thought so. In the seventh century, Isaac the Syrian wrote about 'stillness,' which in his writings has been summarized as 'a deliberate denial of the gift of words for the sake of achieving inner silence, in the midst of which a person can hear the presence of God. It is standing unceasingly, silent, and prayerfully before God.'" (pg. 92)

That's kind of deep so reread that last quote again. How many of us have been taught this form of prayer in our places of worship? I hope that you have and I'm just a late learner. I found this quite impressive. Instead of trying to fill my prayer time with words, words and more words from me, I need to be silent, to be still, to stand in awe of the Almighty! Wow.

I'm thinking this is going to take some self-discipline. It's very difficult for me to be still -- especially my mind. I can physically be still, but my mind continues thinking of things to blog, thinking of people I need to contact, places I should go, things I need to be doing. Ugh, it's hard to be still. But I think it will be worthwhile to get to this place that Isaac the Syrian described.

I love this verse the author shared. It summed it up pretty well.

Ecclesiastes 5:2 reads,

Do not be rash with your mouth,
And let not your heart utter anything hastily before God.
For God is in heaven, and you on earth;
Therefore let your words be few.

I need to hear more from God rather than fill our time together with my words. How about you? Do you struggle with being still before God? Is this something you were taught from your parents or in your places of worship?

For some reason writing this post reminded me of I Kings 19 and the time when the prophet Elijah was standing in God's presence. Maybe I'll blog about that sometime.

Quotes from Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth E. Bailey

Saturday, January 23, 2010

"But what exactly is righteousness?"

"Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness for they shall be filled." ~ Mt. 5:6

"Jesus does not say, 'Blessed are those who live righteously and maintain a righteous lifestyle.' Rather he affirms,
'Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after righteousness.' The statement presupposes that righteousness is something the faithful continuously strive after. The blessed are not those who arrive, but those who continue, at whatever cost, in their pilgrimage toward a more perfect righteousness. The constant, relentless drive toward righteousness characterizes the blessed."

Then the author asks "but what exactly is righteousness?" How do YOU define or think of righteousness? What are we supposed to hunger and thirst for?

Quote from page 77 in Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels by Kenneth E. Bailey

Friday, January 22, 2010

Prayer & Trusting That God Is Bigger Than Giants

From time to time I read things on blogs or in magazines that really touch me somehow. They may challenge me or speak to a situation in my life. Sometimes I take the time to jot them down or copy the quote for another time. I noticed I've collected many of these so here are a few that I've recorded in my Gmail drafts.

"Christ was a man of prayer, even leaving large crowds and seemingly unequaled opportunities to get alone and fellowship with God. And it should be no different with us. In a place where it's so easy to rush around each day preparing ourselves for the future, we need to remember that our future is nothing apart from Him." -- from a college magazine

We must trust that God is in control of our lives

This is where my journey is. Trust. Trust. Trust. Do I TRULY trust? Or like Streams in the Desert states: Quiet tension is not trusting, but simply suppressed anxiety! -- from Angela's blog many weeks ago

And on the theme of trust, there was this referencing the twelve spies Moses sent into the land of Canaan.

How can 12 men, all seeing the same thing, return with such contrasting perspectives? The answer to this question is of utmost importance to us today, because it speaks to the heart of almost every reason why some Christians shrink back in fear while others march forward in boldness. It has nothing to do with a good or poor self-image, or whether or not someone has achieved 'self-actualization.' It has everything to do with our beliefs about God and our thoughts on who He really is.

Ten Israelite spies thought victory was impossible because they believed success was dependent upon their own strength. They thought that the giants were too big, too strong and too many, and that the consequences of fighting the giants would be worse than the consequences of treating God with contempt.

The other two spies believed victory was possible because they knew success was dependent upon God, not themselves. They were convinced God was greater than an entire universe of giants. These two men feared the consequences of disobeying God more than they feared the giants in the land. They put their faith fully in the Lord, and He blessed them for it.

Del Tackett -- Focus on the Family newsletter -- September 2006

I never considered that the ten spies who gave a negative report were somehow "treating God with contempt," did you? I love that the idea that the other spies "believed victory was possible because they knew success was dependent upon God, not themselves. They were convinced God was greater than an entire universe of giants." I want to be like that!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Remove that mask and be real!

This year isn't even a month old, but it seems already a lesson from God is taking shape: be real. Just within the last couple of days I've been reminded by it as I read a blog post and moreso the comments about backbiting and another that dealt with God wanting us to be honest. Like Andrea wrote I'm rather private and find it difficult to share my weaknesses and admit where I struggle.

In Wild Goose Chase, Mark devoted a chapter on "the cage of guilt" and shared how confessing our sins is actually a biblical thing to do according to James 5:16. I'm not saying we blatantly share them as if we were proud of our sinful deeds, but when we truly want deliverance from things, why not share this with others? Marks said as a pastor he has heard a number of confessions and they used to surprise him. But now, he said the thing that surprises him more is when people actually confess. My own pastor said he'd much rather sit across the desk from someone who admits he is struggling with pornography or drug addiction than someone who pretends everything is fine in his life while this battle rages privately. As my pastor says, the church is for the sick! It's for those who need help from God and support and love from the people of God. Don't think you have to be all holy and cleaned up before going to church. It's there where we should find help for our struggles.

But all too often the people of church wear masks. We smile. We shake hands and greet our neighbors. We look great dressed in our Sunday clothes, while inwardly we are hurting and crying and struggling with all sorts of things we would never ever want our fellow churchgoers to know. What would they think if they knew my family wasn't perfect?

What a shame.

We are all humans, yes? And last I checked, all humans go through troubling times with either a wayward child, a hurting spouse, an ailing friend or even an addiction-laden self! Why then do we think we have to project perfection?

Do you really think the Bible characters had it all together? Maybe if they had written their own stories they would have edited out the ugly parts. You know that whole adultery-and-murder thing with King David or the running-away-from-God-and-being-swallowed-by-a-great-big-fish experience Jonah went through. I mean, how humiliating is that? And Moses - the wonderful man used greatly by God -- lost the right to enter the Promised Land because he disobeyed God and hit the rock instead of speaking to it. Ugh. I would have written my story differently. Does the world really need to know of my selfishness, my grumbling, my struggles, my unkindness in responding to others?

God didn't sugarcoat the Bible. He showed His people, warts and all. Why then do we pretend with Him? And with others?

Let me add that I don't mean this confessing of "well, that's just the way I am so there" attitude. This is some people's attempt to justify their backbiting and hateful attitudes when they have no desire for God to change them. I've heard people say this before and it was basically their way of saying, "I'll slander and be unkind in how I respond to you because that's just the way I am so deal with it." Eh, that's not a Christlike attitude. For sure those may be natural responses (Hello, I have those, too!), but like Jesus they are not.

And if our goal is to be like Jesus, we need to quit justifying "that's just the way we are," and seek His help in responding in a different way.

Boy was this a rambling post . . .

Do you find it easy to confess your faults and weaknesses to others or do you tend to sugarcoat yourself (and you family) so others see a well-put-together you? Why do you think people are scared to be real and share with others within the church? What are your thoughts about this thing being between me and God so why would I share it with anyone else? Have you ever found confessing something to be freeing? Do you think one result of keeping things quiet is making others believe they are the only ones going through this same thing? Any other thoughts or questions on this topic?

Monday, January 18, 2010

Blessing Others, Sharing "Anyway" Love, Our Example

In the chapter about helping the people, the author writes: "Community doesn't come naturally when local cooperative structures are lacking. It is easy to fall into the habits of private capitalism focused on improving life for my family. ... Development must bless a community ... From the beginning, those who benefit must look outward. They are blessed to be a blessing." -- pg. 203

quoted from Daughters of Islam by Miriam Adeney

This reminds me of my preacher who often tells us "how many of you know God doesn't pass you the gravy so you can drown in it?" This is his way of saying, "We are blessed richly by God so that we, in turn, can reach out and bless others." We should not hog all the blessings for ourselves. Don't drown in them, share them!

I had this saved in my drafts since last year and believe it goes along well with this thought.

I John 4:11 says, "Dear friends, if God loved us that much we should also love each other."

"As our relationship with Christ grows, the Spirit teaches us that we are not the the final destination of God's love. Instead, we are to share His love with others. When we begin to realize this truth, our focus will shift away from ourselves, and we will desire to put His love into action.

The ministry of Jesus is a prime example of an 'others-centered' lifestyle. He spent His days meeting needs through both simple and miraculous ways. The biblical record of Christ's servant leadership should motivate us to become more dedicated to care for the hurting, lost and lonely around us."

by Jennifer Devlin -- In Touch Magazine -- May 2009

We are loved so we can love others! Pass the love around, spread the love! Neat idea in a world that needs more genuine, unconditional, "anyway" love.

Anyway love -- No matter what you do or what you forget that is important to me, I love you! Contrast this with conditional, "because" love. Because you make me feel important, because you remember my birthday with special gifts, I love you. Thank God for His "anyway" love!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

God - Involving, Providing, Loving, Redeeming, Using

"How do we handle human conflict, selfishness, pride? It's a cosmic problem. But it needs a personal solution. Microsoft can't program selfishness out. The president can't veto it. A Pentagon printout can't give specifications for love. It's only when God fills us with his love, when God is willing to get involved in our mess, that we find the power to change." -- pg. 68

I love the verse in Ezekiel where God promised to replace our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. In other words, He would change our hard hearts into tender, compassionate ones. Have you ever prayed for God to give you His love for others? For God to give you His eyes for seeing those people who previously got on your nerves or of whom you thought little? It's quite amazing how He can transform your thoughts and feelings towards people if you truly desire Him to do this.

"God's grace is not cheap. A moral God doesn't overlook injustice with a wave of the hand and a shrug of the shoulders. We can't wipe out the stain of our selfishness by our merits. We can't bridge the gap between our polluted selves and a holy, eternal God by our good works. No, penalties must be paid. In Christ they are paid." -- pg. 73 Whether we believe Abraham was ready to offer Isaac or Ishmael, the lesson is clear: "God himself can provide a sacrifice."

And many believe He did just this. We believe Jesus was the Lamb of God who gave Himself for our sins. As John the Baptist said: "Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!"

Also see this post where I copied a quote from someone convinced the cross shows God's sacrificial love.

"The cross reveals that God is not only zealous to uphold the moral order of the universe and to do something about wrong action and sin, but He is also zealous to uplift the one who has gone against the moral order and to redeem the sinner. So in the cross the justice and the love of God meet. There we see that God loved justice too well to forgive lightly, and loved man (and woman) too well to be indifferent." -- pg. 74

So God did not excuse sin as no big deal. It hurts Him. It hurts us. It hurts others. But God did not leave us alone to die in our sin. He loved too much and made a way to redeem us - wow!

In a chapter speaking of people with questionable practices talking to people about Christ, the author writes: "It seems that God used these foolish people not because of their foolishness, but because they loved in spite of their imperfections. They reached out in spite of their faults. They didn't wait until they had it all together before they dared to care. Their love was greater than their pride. God honored this." -- pg. 93

This gives me hope. We don't have to have it "all together" before God is able to use us. He can use us despite our imperfections. Yes, He is that good.

quotes from Daughters of Islam by Miriam Adeney

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Law of Sacrifice & Sacrificial Love

The law of sacrifice runs through life, from the lowest to the very highest. In any realm of life those who save others cannot always save themselves from trouble, sorrow, yes, sometimes even death.

The seed gives itself and dies in order to produce a harvest.

The mother bird throws herself into the jaws of the serpent in order to save her young.

The human mother goes down into the valley of death to bring a child into the world.

The young patriot, with all his life before him, takes his one life into his hands and marches out against the bayonets of the enemy, in order to save home and country . . .

Now if this is a universal law -- and it seems to be -- then when we come to God, the highest Being, we would expect to find in Him the greatest and noblest expression of sacrificial love in the whole universe. Otherwise the creature would be greater than the Creator. A worm would be greater, a bird, an animal; they give themselves, but not God. It is unthinkable that God would write a law of saving by sacrifice throughout the universe and be empty of it himself . . .

But the cross shows that there is such a God.

-- John Seamands quote on pg. 72 in
Daughters of Islam by Miriam Adeney

Friday, January 15, 2010

Looking at the OT: Is God a Savior?

Recently I had a post about God our Savior and wondered "out loud" if Savior were a word you used to describe God. Islam is famous for having the 99 names of Allah, but I'm not sure if Savior is one of them. Ever since I wrote that post I've mused off and on about God being a savior. I even looked up verses from the concordance that mentioned "savior" or "salvation" focusing especially on the Old Testament although one verse from the NT caught my attention. Here are a few of the verses from the OT. I purposefully focused on these because I want to see if GOD - not Jesus - is known as "savior." And the quote from Mary was before Jesus' birth so I think it's valid as well. Read these and tell me what you think.

11 I, even I, am the LORD,
and apart from me there is no savior. (Read in context here -- Isaiah 43)

4 "But I am the LORD your God,
who brought you out of Egypt.
You shall acknowledge no God but me,
no Savior except me. (Read in context here -- Hosea 13)

16 You will drink the milk of nations
and be nursed at royal breasts.
Then you will know that I, the LORD, am your Savior,
your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. (Read in context here -- Isaiah 60)

7 But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD,
I wait for God my Savior;
my God will hear me. (Read in context here -- Micah 7)

46And Mary said:
"My soul glorifies the Lord
47and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant. (Read in context here -- Luke 1)

So do you think the people thought of God as savior only in the sense of delivering them from their enemies? Kind of a Moses, Joshua, David or Saladin type?

There are more verses such as those from the Psalms that talk of salvation being from the Lord. Again, is this only physical salvation from hardships and those who would hurt us?

Here are verses about salvation.

Interestingly enough, when King David speaks of salvation in Psalm 51, he mentions sins and not deliverance from the Amalekites or someone trying to take his throne. This was his prayer of repentance after his sin with Bathsheba. Here is part of it. Notice the reference to God's role in salvation.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

I think David certainly thought of God as his salvation. Check out Psalm 40.

1 I waited patiently for the LORD;
he turned to me and heard my cry.

2 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.

(I didn't lift my own self out of this icky pit and clean myself. HE did it.)

3 He put a new song in my mouth,
a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear
and put their trust in the LORD.

4 Blessed is the man
who makes the LORD his trust,
who does not look to the proud,
to those who turn aside to false gods.

5 Many, O LORD my God,
are the wonders you have done.
The things you planned for us
no one can recount to you;
were I to speak and tell of them,
they would be too many to declare.

6 Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but my ears you have pierced ;
burnt offerings and sin offerings
you did not require.

7 Then I said, "Here I am, I have come—
it is written about me in the scroll.

8 I desire to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart."

9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly;
I do not seal my lips,
as you know, O LORD.

10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart;
I speak of your faithfulness and salvation.
I do not conceal your love and your truth
from the great assembly.

11 Do not withhold your mercy from me, O LORD;
may your love and your truth always protect me.

12 For troubles without number surround me;
my sins have overtaken me, and I cannot see.
They are more than the hairs of my head,
and my heart fails within me.

13 Be pleased, O LORD, to save me;
O LORD, come quickly to help me.

14 May all who seek to take my life
be put to shame and confusion;
may all who desire my ruin
be turned back in disgrace.

15 May those who say to me, "Aha! Aha!"
be appalled at their own shame.

16 But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation always say,
"The LORD be exalted!"

(This is why I often say it's all about Him and not our "good deeds." To GOD be the glory - He is the one who has redeemed and saved us!)

17 Yet I am poor and needy;
may the Lord think of me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
O my God, do not delay.

Is God the savior? A savior? Thoughts?

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Importance of Stories

"God's revelation of himself is story. The Bible is not primarily doctrines. It's mostly the stories of people who have known God. Jesus used stories a lot of the time."

Stories bring the truth home. Remember David being confronted by Nathan about his sin with Bathsheba?

1 The LORD sent Nathan to David. When he came to him, he said, "There were two men in a certain town, one rich and the other poor. 2 The rich man had a very large number of sheep and cattle, 3 but the poor man had nothing except one little ewe lamb he had bought. He raised it, and it grew up with him and his children. It shared his food, drank from his cup and even slept in his arms. It was like a daughter to him.

4 "Now a traveler came to the rich man, but the rich man refrained from taking one of his own sheep or cattle to prepare a meal for the traveler who had come to him. Instead, he took the ewe lamb that belonged to the poor man and prepared it for the one who had come to him."

5 David burned with anger against the man and said to Nathan, "As surely as the LORD lives, the man who did this deserves to die! 6 He must pay for that lamb four times over, because he did such a thing and had no pity."

7 Then Nathan said to David, "You are the man!

(for more see II Samuel 12)

Stories have power. They touch us at many levels. Not only our cognitions, but also our sensations and emotions are kindled. Stories are specific. We smell scents, we hear sounds, we feel textures. We are drawn to characters or repulsed by them.

Stories meet our need to be actively involved in learning through discovery. Stories poke us with surprises. "Important truths must be expressed through symbols," says Justin Oforo of Tanzania. "If an idea is stated plainly we don't take it seriously." If a speaker doesn't care enough to package his or her idea attractively, it must not be important, people feel. But when a speaker draws on the resource bank of a people's own symbols, it shows that he or she cares. (pg. 150-151)

If this last line is true, then for sure, Jesus cared! The Gospels are full of stories (parables) He shared using local symbols that the people would understand.

Many women will learn God's message through stories. "What an empowering message. Here is a great cloud of witnesses. Here are role models, both positive and negative. Certainly these biblical characters sinned. Yet they found God real and relevant not just in their holy moods but also in their failures. How this comforts a woman. Like David in the Psalms, she may doubt. Like Jeremiah, she may despair. Like Esther, she may be confronted with overwhelming odds. Like Hagar, she may be rejected. Remembering these spiritual foremothers and fathers when she is surrounded by troubles outside and sins inside, she is reminded that nothing can separate her from the love of God." (pg. 155)

Are stories important to you or do you just like the cold, hard facts? Do you agree that presenting facts through stories or symbols is a way to show people that you care? What is a story that has especially touched your life by speaking to a need in your life or challenging you to think a certain way? Have you ever used stories to teach a lesson or make a point?

Quotes from Daughters of Islam by Miriam Adeney

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bible Land Culture: Courtyards, Non-Privacy, The Nativity, Bread, Voices

I finally finished Wild Goose Chase the other day and started on another book. I'm only on page 80 of over 300 pages, but I wanted to record these things while they were fresh on my mind.

Manners and Customs of Bible Lands by Fred Wight

My dad had this book at his house and suggested I read it last week when I was visiting. I have found it so interesting, and it actually made me "homesick" for Syria and life in the Bible lands. When I saw a sketch and read a description of the traditional house with courtyard, I could totally picture it because I'd stayed in one while in Damascus. (The hostel was actually an old Damascene house with courtyard and click here to see an old house with courtyard converted into a restaurant.) I could relate when the author said it was like within the courtyard one was inside his own house, but with the bonus of also being able to see the sky and experience God's great outdoors. He said when Bathsheba was bathing in the courtyard, she was within her house and not able to be seen by most. Only because of the palace's vantage point was David able to view her.

Many things stated reminded me of Syria -- removing the shoes upon entering a house, the warm, demonstrative greetings, the importance of hospitality. I enjoyed the part about Arabs not wanting to eat alone and how if you stayed as a guest in an Eastern house, you wouldn't be left alone (so don't expect much privacy) because they don't like being alone. To be left alone is a sad thing in a place that values relationships and community. I remember Thomas from the hostel. He was a young American who decided to rent a room with a Syrian family in order to learn more Arabic. One of his complaints: they never left him alone! He said the little boys were constantly opening the door to his room and wanting him to watch movies with them. (American movies, mind you, so they didn't really help him improve his Arabic!) But now reading this about how an Eastern person would feel "ill-treated" if left alone and how they would expect companionship, it makes much more sense why this Arab family kept seeking out Thomas' company.

Page 34 deals with seeing the birth of Jesus from Western and Eastern eyes. I'd first been introduced to this concept two years ago when I read an Arab Christian's book and found it pretty amazing to have my long-held views challenged. It was neat to see it mentioned in this book as well. Makes me believe we totally got that whole born-alone-in-a-barn thing wrong by looking at Jesus' birth and interpreting "manger" talk through our Western eyes. Of course we have mangers in barns, but people of Jesus' days were not like us. And for Mary and Joseph to go to Bethlehem which was the place of their family roots and not find one hospitable soul in a culture that exudes hospitality is plum crazy!

I read about the importance even "sacredness" of bread and, therefore, how amazing Jesus' "I am the Bread of Life" statement was to people of His day. (see pg. 45) Also I loved the part about how people would knock on the doors and say "It is I" and the other would recognize his voice. The author reminded us of when Jesus appeared to his disciples and said "It is I" and they recognized His voice (see pg. 40). He stated that the Easterner "is trained to listen to a voice and be able to recognize a friend." Does this relate to Jesus' statement about His sheep knowing His voice and following Him? (see John 10)

This book was published in the 1950s. The author said Arabs of today had preserved so much of the Biblical culture that they could get true glimpses of Bible times by speaking of present-day Arabs. Of course things could have changed within the last 60 years, but still I could relate to some of the things stated as I mentioned above. This book seriously made me want to live in Syria for a while and experience living in this great culture.

Did I mention that one year ago today we made our plane reservations for our trip to Syria? I can hardly believe the time has passed so quickly.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Sin + Grace = Gratitude

I wrote this post six months ago when I first read this book. I wanted to repost this because I found it meaningful again.

First do you remember from the Gospel about Peter three times denying that he knew Jesus? As soon as the third denial happened, a rooster crowed. Mark wondered if, in the future, hearing a rooster crowing caused Peter to have a twinge of guilt. Kind of one of those Ivan Pavlov conditioned reflex things. Is there something in your life that triggers a regret or guilty feelings? A song, a smell, a place? Whether or not you have one of these guilt inducers, you may enjoy these words about grace and guilt.

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)

This also reminded me of some cultures and families where it is too shameful to discuss things so people keep their dark secrets hidden. I think this makes people believe they are freaks because surely no one else has ever gone through this awful situation before! Crazy! It's as if all people are naturally holy and righteous all the time and sinful actions never happen. What a burden to put on individuals and families!

"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.

Sin - Grace = Guilt

Sin + Grace = Gratitude

We can be thankful because our sin met His grace and God's grace is bigger! Now you see why we praise and thank our God, right?

God our Savior, Reacting like a Christian, Impacting Lives

"We can't appreciate the full extent of God's grace until we realize the full extent of our sins." (pg. 99)

If you don't realize you are a sinner, you don't realize you need a Savior. Perhaps you believe you can save yourself through your good deeds. Between Muslims, Jews and Christians there are many names for God. Do you consider one of them, the Savior? Why or why not?

I posted these previously, but since I'm rereading this book and these things once again stood out to me, I am copying them here. Challenging stuff!

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.

Can you relate or am I a rarity?

Mark challenges us to "thank God for opposition" because "it forces us to pray like it depends on God, which it does. And it reconditions our reflexes in the process." (pg. 102)

I absolutely love this next part . . .

"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)

Have you ever had the opportunity to love someone when they least expected or deserved it? Even if they never said anything, I imagine your act of grace touched them more than you realize. This is the kind of love and grace God demonstrates to us. What a challenge to love others as He loves us!

"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)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

What a Savior!

January 9, 2010
Loved: this picture so much I wanted to share it again
Delighted: in the joy on this young child's face
Blessed: that Jesus came to seek and save that which was lost
Accepted: by God through Christ Jesus, not by my own works
Showered: by His kindness

Ephesians 1

3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ. 4 Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. 5 God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. 6 So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. 7 He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. 8 He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Short Quotes & Eds

"Jesus does not give recipes that show the way to God as other teachers of religion do. He is Himself the way." - Karl Barth -- posted by a Facebook friend

Sam's Club bulletin board -- 12-17-09

"It's not what you gather in life, but what you scatter in life that tells what kind of life you've lived and the kind of person you are." -- Helen Robson Walton

"Attitudes are contagious -- is yours worth catching?"

"Winners are people who do jobs uncommonly well even when they do not feel like doing them at all."

January 8, 2010

Asked: by Andrew, "have you done any more of those 'ed' things?"
Decided: to brave the cold temperatures to run my errands this morning
Shopped: at Wal-mart, Walgreens and Food Lion
Stocked: up on vitamins since Walgreens had them buy-one-get-one free
Griped: to a friend about wireless welfare after seeing a story on the news last night
by said friend how blessed I am in my country if all I had to gripe about was people who pay phone bills having to subsidize cell phones for welfare recipients (sorry! I still don't think cell phones are one of life's necessities! I survived years and years without one.)
Called: a "predator" because I eat meat on occasion; is predator the opposite of vegetarian?
Preyed: on pepperoni pizza
Thrilled: to be visited by Michael who is spending the night
Watched: "Night at the Museum 2"
Tickled: on my feet by Michael
Stayed: up too late -- good night, all

Assumptions, Logic, Faith, Delight & Dreaming Big

January 7, 2010
Folded: several tax receipts
Stuffed: said tax receipts into envelopes
Watched: the Alabama Crimson Tide roll over Texas in the football championship bowl game
Mailed: a note to a friend
Stayed: home all day

From Wild Goose Chase . . .

Speaking on assumptions, logic, faith and trying to explain the supernatural, Mark says this:

"Instead of embracing the mystery, we come up with human explanations for supernatural phenomena. Instead of living in wonderment, we try to make the Omniscient One fit within the logical limits of our left brain. And if I may be so bold, I honestly don't think this makes us smart. I think it makes us small-minded. And God isn't the one diminished. We are." (pg. 71)

"The more faith you have, the fewer assumptions you will make. Why? Because with God all things are possible."

By the way this chapter speaks of Abraham, and God getting Abraham out of his tent to count the stars. Mark suggests often we make assumptions based on our view of the eight-foot ceilings around us when we need to go outside at night and consider the One Who hung the moon and sprinkled all those stars across the heavens. Notice the difference? When we assume the ceiling's the limit, we don't dream, we don't believe all things are possible. But when we consider the moon and the stars and the One Who made them and His desire to work through us, we realize anything is possible with God!

"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. Abraham 'faced the fact.' But he was also 'fully persuaded' that God had the power to deliver on His promise. Faith is not mindless ignorance; it simply refuses to limit God to the logical constraints of the left brain." (pg. 79)

I love that. So often I limit life to reality instead of dreaming. Do you believe God puts dreams into our hearts? One psalm instructs us to delight ourselves in the Lord and He will give us the desires of our hearts. If I understand this verse correctly when we delight in the Lord, His desires become our desires and God wants to give us those things. So why limit life to the sometimes dreary "realistic" outlook ahead of us? Take God into the equation! See the future through His eyes and realize with Him nothing is too difficult! Indeed, anything is possible!

What is something you have in your heart to do, but maybe you've tried to squelch that dream or passion because it's just sooooo unrealistic that it seems it will never happen? Have you limited God by your assumptions and logic? Have you ever stood outside on a clear night and been amazed by the awesomeness of God as you gazed into the sky? Or maybe you've had this experience while hiking in the mountains or while considering the vastness of the ocean or desert or simply by observing a newborn baby or the flowers in your yard. Do tell!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"When I say 'I am a Christian...'"

One of my friends had this on her Facebook status and I loved it.

When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not shouting "I'm clean living." I'm whispering "I was lost, now I'm found and forgiven."

When I say... "I am a Christian" I don't speak of this with pride. I'm confessing that I stumble and need Christ to be my guide.

When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not trying to be strong. I'm professing that I'm weak and need His strength to carry on.

When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not bragging of success. I'm admitting I have failed and need God to clean my mess.

When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not claiming to be perfect, my flaws are far too visible But, God believes I am worth it.

When I say... "I am a Christian" I still feel the sting of pain. I have my share of heartaches so I call upon His name.

When I say... "I am a Christian" I'm not holier than thou; I'm just a simple sinner who received God's good grace, somehow.

Ephesians 2:8For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9not by works, so that no one can boast.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Now that I've started this little "ed" thing I got from another blog, I am obsessed with making "ed" words!!!

January 4, 2010

Hugged: my brother whom I finally got on the phone! (and saw in person thus how I hugged him)
Laughed: at a cute Sponge Bob card Michael drew
Amused: by TCU's mascot -- the Horned Frogs (Fiesta Bowl Game; football)
Enjoyed: Hanging out with Michael and my dad for a couple of hours
Pondered: Things I read in a book about John 1:1 and Jesus as the Word/Logos (my dad read my blog and directed me to a book that addressed this in the first chapter)

January 5, 2010
Walked: in the "freeze with a breeze" in the dark with Andrew
Amazed: by God's grace and unconditional love as shown in Luke 15
Reminded: why we need a Savior
Overjoyed: that I could "speak life" to a friend
Loved: How God confirmed things I spoke within an hour after I spoke them
Needed: Carmen's post about the Power to Bless and Love; it's amazing how God challenges me often through blogs - stuff I need to read at just the right time
Challenged: to not do what my sinful nature is wanting me to do -- from Carmen's blog:

Romans 8 12:-14

Sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. for if you keep on following it, you will perish. But, if through the power of the Holy Spirit you turn from it and it's evil deeds, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

January 6, 2010
Chopped: the ends off 30 lbs. of carrots
Visited: my brother at his workplace
Tagged: along with my dad to Sam's Club where I bought those 30 lbs. of carrots
Called: my other brother about a home owner's insurance question that he had
Scarfed: the Hershey's Special Dark chocolate from my dad's bag of candy
Reconnected: with a friend whom I'd not talked to in a while

And finally, I laughed when I read this e-mail from my sister. I told Michael today he could spend the night with us on Friday. Two hours later, my sister sent me this:

Wow-I got out of the shower and went to the living room. Mike had all his clothes on, shoes in his hand, and a bookbag packed full of stuff. I asked him what he was doing, and he said getting ready for your house on FRIDAY! He is so ready to go over there. I told him it's a few days away, and he said he just wanted to get his stuff together and be ready to go. He is very excited to show Andrew his new movies and toys and stuff. VERY excited......

By the way, it's too bad "read" doesn't end with "ed," isn't it?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Routines, Rote Prayers & Heuristic Bias

From Wild Goose Chase

In this section Mark deals with the key to spiritual growth being our development of "healthy and holy routines" or spiritual disciplines. He suggests that once the routine becomes a routine, we need to disrupt it. Why? "Because sacred routines become empty rituals when we do them out of left-brain memory instead of right-brain imagination. ... One of the greatest dangers we face spiritually is learning how and forgetting why."

The "tendency to think the way we've always thought or do it the way we've always done it is called heuristic bias. It is an incredibly complex cognitive process, but the end result is mindlessness. We do things without thinking about them. And if we aren't careful, we pray without thinking, take Communion without thinking, and worship without thinking." (pg. 59)

After quoting this verse:

13 And so the Lord says,
“These people say they are mine.
They honor me with their lips,
but their hearts are far from me.
And their worship of me
is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote. (Isaiah 29, NLT)

Mark says, "God doesn't want to be lip-synced. He wants to be worshiped." He reminds us that the psalms "exhort us no fewer than six times to sing a new song. We need new words, new postures, new thoughts and new feelings. Why? Because God wants to be more than a memory!"

Also Jesus put it this way:

7 “When you pray, don’t babble on and on as people of other religions do. They think their prayers are answered merely by repeating their words again and again." (Matthew 6, NLT)

What are your thoughts on this topic? Do you agree that praying the same words over and over can make it mindless worship? Do you agree that new words, postures, songs and feelings are needed? Why or why not?

Coincidence, Sabbath, Spontaneous Ministry

More notes from Wild Goose Chase . . .

"I don't believe in coincidence. I believe in providence. I believe in a sovereign God who sets up divine appointments half a world away. He can use any one of us to touch anyone else in the world." (pg. 52)

This reminded me of all my blogging friends because I do believe God brought us together to share and learn from each other.

Speaking of taking a Sabbath or day of rest, Mark rightly declares that God did not need a break. His view: "The Sabbath is a weekly reminder that we don't keep the planets in orbit; He does." In other words, quit trying to do so much. Got a mile-long to-do list? Don't fret if you can't get it all done in one day or even in a week!

We tend to miss ministry opportunities when we are too busy and too much in a hurry. Notice how often Jesus was on his way somewhere, but he was interrupted and stopped to help. He didn't say, "Oops sorry...late for an appointment with Lazarus!" Nope, he stopped to minister and heal the woman with a bleeding disorder. Realize sometimes those annoying human interruptions are really divine appointments. God uses us to reach out to others. Don't be in such a rush to get somewhere and get things done that we don't stop to help the ones in need (think religious leaders in the story of the Good Samaritan).

Mark sites a study where researchers concluded, "The words 'You're late,' had the effect of making someone who was ordinarily compassionate into someone who was indifferent to suffering." (pg. 57)

Mark believes, "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." (pg. 58) This makes me think again of the post I did recently on Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch. Philip was directed by the Holy Spirit where to go, which chariot to approach and thus was able to preach the good news of Jesus to this searching man!

What do y'all think? Is Mark way off base or do you think his ideas have merit? Have you any experience in where seeming human interruptions turned into "divine appointments"? Are you a spontaneous person or are you like me and like things planned out in advance? :-) Do you recall times when you felt the Spirit was prompting you to visit someone, call someone or go some place that you had not thought to go? Did you obey that prompting or did you ignore it? Anything worth sharing about that experience? What do you think about taking a day of rest and Mark's "take" on it? Anything else you'd like to share? Please do!