February 26, 2007

How do we love thee?

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love."
1 Corinthians 13:13

I think this verse is frequently misinterpreted. I saw it used in a church bulletin this week as a scriptural justification for loving a certain group of new members (with a highly questionable lifestyle) in a congregation. It heavily implied that we should allow our faith in the Lord and our hope that He can bring them away from their sin come distant cousins to our simply loving them. Love every part of them, the bulletin said, even their sin.
But God does not love sin. In fact, He hates it. This is the old question: how do we love people without also allowing their sin to be loved?

Of course we should love other people. Jesus calls us to do this. But should our love for other s ever be greater than the love for our Lord? Never. So, when it comes time to love others, let me always remember Christ first. His desire for me to follow Him is key; my obedience (or lack of) to Christ is a guide for how I should - and do- treat others. It does not mean love others less, but love Jesus first. This is how we align with the Lord against sin, but continue to love our neighbors as ourselves. We, too, have sin in our hearts.

If my aim is to show Jesus my love for Him by serving other people, I have it backwards. I must love Him first, and use His love as my example of how to love others. Jesus loved everyone- even the Pharisees- but He did not condone all they did. Neither did He judge them. Rather, He told them who He was (He is our Savior).

The answer to, "Who is Jesus?" will be our answer to, "How should I love others?"

February 25, 2007

Women of the counter culture, unite! (pt. I)

I never cease to be amazed at how many women in the body of Christ feel the way I do about the perceived necessity of using the degrees we've earned. Why, oh why, do we not give ourselves a well-deserved nod of approval at that remarkable accomplishment (face it, in our minute-to-minute culture whenever someone puts four years' focused time into any one thing, it's an accomplishment) and then go on to pursue our Godly, womanly talents and gifts? The following is an excerpt from a Revive our Hearts listener, commenting on the importance of not only becoming a Proverbs 31 woman, but not cow-towing to the “feminism” (which is anti-feminine) of our day and age.

"Having been in the generation that came to adulthood in the 50's-early 60's, I didnt ever think or believe there was a more important job than caring for my family , being a provider in my home. Many of my peers went on to college and after finishing believed they "needed to use" their degree.

I's like the mother who goes back to work when her baby is 6 weeks old. Years later, she will know she cannot go back and recoup that time lost. A division of labor is spoken of in the Bible. I believe the Bible teaches the man shall provide, while the woman cares and tends the family. We have moved far away from this Biblical standard for families and we wonder what has happened to the family.
We are buying bigger houses, charging on credit cards- restaurant bills, latest clothing fashion, vacations, fancy birthday parties for our children, and then believe "we have to work."

There are so many lasting gifts you can give your family. A haven in their home.
When they are grown, they will not remember the clothes, entertainment, etc, your salary may provide. They will remember the times they spent as a family and what their home life was like. The comment that Barbara Bush made to the Wellesley graduates, "At the end of your life you will not wish you had made more business deals, you will wish you had spent more time with your family."

February 21, 2007

When I meet Jesus

Nic asked me once, "When you're face-to-face with Jesus, what will you say?" I replied, "I'll probably sing." When I don't know how to pray, I sing. I wrote this today.

Oh, Lord, I've a long way to go.
The mountain is high and the valley is low.
Yet I continue to climb, through the dirt and the snow.
Oh, Lord, I've a long way to go.

Father God, I am trying to keep faith.
Forgive my impatience, but it's so hard to wait.
The devil tempts me with ways out and I take the bait.
Father God, I am trying to keep faith.

Loving Christ, You've given all I need:
A home, a family, your word and your deed.
So why do I still hang my head and weep?
Loving Christ, You're all that I need.

Spirit strong, you're wherever I be.
Your presence encourages me.
Do you hear my prayer? I long for thee.
Spirit strong, you're wherever I be.

Blessed Lord, I've a long way to go.
I'll follow you anywhere, though the end I do not know.
I will ask, knock and seek you so
When I'm called home, with me You'll go.

Oh Lord, I've a long way to go.

February 20, 2007

Taking the initiative against drudgery

"Arise, shine..." (Isaiah 60:1)

When it comes to taking the initiative against drudgery, we have to take the first step as though there were no God. There is no point in waiting for God to help us- He will not. But once we arise, immediately we find He is there. Whenever God gives us His inspiration, suddenly taking the initiative becomes a moral issue- a matter of obedience. Then we must act to be obedient and not continue to lie down doing nothing. If we will arise and shine, drudgery will be divinely transformed.

Drudgery is one of the finest tests to determine the genuineness of our character. Drudgery is work that is far removed from anything we think of as ideal work. It is the utterly hard, menial, tiresome and dirty work. And when we experience it, our spirituality is instantly tested and we will know whether or not we are spiritually genuine. Read John 13. In this chapter, we see the Incarnate God performing the greatest example of drudgery- washing fishermen's feet. He then said to them, "If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet" (John 13:14).

The inspiration of God is required if drudgery is to shine with the light of God upon it. In some cases the way a person does a task makes that work sanctified and holy forever. It may be a very common, everyday task, but after we have seen it done, it becomes different. When the Lord does something through us, He always transforms it. Our Lord takes our human flesh and transforms it, and now every believer's body has become "the temple of the Holy Spirit" (1 Corinthians 6:19).

Taken from, "My Utmost for His Highest" by Oswald Chambers.

February 10, 2007

Bathing with the Enemy

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain;
Then bursting forth in glorious day,
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory,
Sin's curse has lost its grip on me;
For I am His and He is mine—
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

Do you believe you were bought with His blood? Believe it or not, you were. And as something is bought, it then belongs to the buyer. You belong to Christ. Yet so many of us spend our days speaking out on His behalf, then going home and washing off His blood. Do you wash it off? Consider the following:

* Can you speak out of both sides of your mouth? I can. I love to give advice, especially scripturally-based, and then walk in the opposite direction I just pointed to. I wash off the blood when I second-guess His advice (the Word).

* Do you plan for the future? Do you know it is certain? I do! I've been whispered to what my future holds. Who whispered it? I don't know, but it sounded good! Forget about the details of today; what am I really building up for? To be used for? I wash off the blood when I don't receive my daily bread.

* Is there a "public you" and a "private you?" Are you vocal of the Victory in your spare time, or your home time, or to your public audience, only to find yourself growing very, very quiet when your faith is challenged publicly? Anyone who knows me knows of my chameleon-like nature; don't I love it to appeal to His side when it appeals to me? Yup. I put on the Armor with purpose before I set out for the day... then I put on a coat, hat, gloves, boots and purse over it. I wash off the blood when I back down from my faith.

* Do you secretly wish there was a way you could prove how clean you could be, if only the circumstances were right? Do you feel a little jealousy toward those for whom it seems easy to accept being seen washed in the blood every single moment? Completely humbling yourself to Him is hard. Don't tell me it isn't. Then again, it's a joy to be humble, to relenquish the control over my life! I wash off the blood when I believe I can be clean without the Blood.

I don't know how to end this. All I can say is, if you think this isn't a BATTLE you are fooling yourself. Put on your armor.

Measure by measure

Proverbs 31 and Ecclesiastes 3:

A wife of noble character:

Her husband has full confidence in her
and lacks nothing of value.

She brings him good, not harm,
all the days of her life.

She sets about her work vigorously;
her arms are strong for her tasks.

She is clothed with strength and dignity;
she can laugh at the days to come.

She speaks with wisdom,
and faithful instruction is on her tongue.

She watches over the affairs of her household
and does not eat the bread of idleness.

Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting;
but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised."

There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,

a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,

a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,

a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,

a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak.

Lord, commit to my heart your words so that I may be the woman you want me to be. It is so hard to be that woman, but I desire nothing more. Let me me like the plants lying in wait for spring; keep me in wait for you, don't let me be hasty and lose the way, bring me up from the earth when you know it is the time I can thrive. And if I should be brought up and grow, don't then let me seek to water myself. Watch over me all the days of my life. Thank you and in the name of your Son I pray, Amen.

February 8, 2007

Daily challenge

A couple weeks ago I started hearing buzz about a video on YouTube in which people deny the existence of the Holy Spirit. It's named the "blasphemy challenge" and dreamed up by the "rational response squad," a group of atheists determined to "destroy Christianity." Here's a link:
the official website for the "challenge"

In each video the maker must put the words, "I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit," referring to a passage in Mark 3:23-29 in which Jesus says whomever sins shall be forgiven, excepting those who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit. So the "rational response squad" - so wittily named- in their desire to make themselves gods, promotes the public denouncement of the Spirit as a means to collecting people's souls. They want to encourage young people (they put ads on teen magazine websites, friendster, youtube, etc.) to "challenge" the fear that religion promotes (a fear of God) by "putting [their] souls on the line."

There are just a few things wrong with their argument. I'm not sure it's even worth the time to explain it all... because this is such a joke of a "challenge," but for reference purposes for the second half of this post, shall we carry on?

1. This reading of Mark 3:28-29 is wrong. Flat-out misinterpretation. Jesus was using this explanation of the nature of the Holy Spirit to demonstrate that Satan and God are not on the same side. He was chastising them for saying He (Jesus) could drive out demons because they thought He could therefore control demons because He was on their side. He wasn't.
Mark 14:17- "...the Spirit of Truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neithers sees him nor knows him."

2. There isn't any sin Jesus doesn't have the power to forgive. Jesus forgives by way of the Father, God. As it was God's will to send Jesus to die for us, it became Jesus' will to do so. Jesus never did anything without asking first what God wished Him to carry out.
John 17:4- "I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do."
God had but one command for us, "...love the Lord your God..." (Deuteronomy 30:16). Again, by Jesus' own words, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind and all your strength" (Mark 12:30).

3. The "rational squad" doesn't believe in hell, but want peoples' souls. WHY? How do they rationalize the existence of souls? Or your free will, which allows you to do whatever you like with your soul? If they don't expect us to prove ourselves before God (because, they say, He doesn't exist), why should we like to prove ourselves before the rational response squad? Clearly this is a case of believers gone sour by way of a weak faith (more explanation to follow), conned into thinking they don't need a God. Why, then, do they want to be our god? After all they are collecting souls here; what do they plan to do with them?

There are many more points to be drawn up, but what am I driving at here? This so-called "challenge" isn't much of one. It presupposes that you already don't believe in God, Jesus, or the Holy Spirit; if you already believe that your soul isn't in danger it's no skin off your nose to "put it on the line." For many making these blasphemy videos, the challenge has already begun taking place in a soul they once believed they had. Lost and bewildered, they seek out a god to follow (as human nature commands us to) and have here found the "squad." We love to worship, don't we? We crave devotion to and validation from something. Targeting teenagers in our country is about as easy as shooting fish in a barrel. Most of them, due to our nation's emphasis on the importance of this life, are already half dead.

So here's my challenge to the "squad:"
1. Target a stronger set of people. Try believers. Adults. Those who have been walking with the Lord for years. I'm sure they've struggled more than you and you might relate to that. Heck, you might even get a mentor out of it!
2. Establish consistency before you debate. For starters, come up with a better argument than, "there's no reason to believe in God." Move on to address the inherent contradiction in your promotion of your right way (to not believe) versus our wrong way (to believe); please explain a moral system on terms of an irrational world (without God).
Finish with explain ing clearly where your reason comes from, and how you can prove it- rationally.
3. Take the challenge of the Bible: love God, love your neighbor. Have you tried this? It can be really difficult! Sure, it's easy to love your family, your spouse, your kids, your friends and anyone you see struggling... or is it? Families can be cruel. People can adamently and violently refuse your help. God can seem absent when you need Him most. But this is the true challenge, to love them regardless, especially God. And especially when He seems the most distant. You have to allow yourself to be drawn close to Him. That, my friend, is a challange. To do God's will and delight in it? This is not easy, but truly the only thing I find a blessing in my life. It's a long, sometimes dark, road I'm on, but I'm never alone on it.

I've got to feel empathy for the main guy in the "squad," because he was a Catholic, then born-again at age 13. Later, when his faith was challenged in high school, he turned away. In fact, his targeting teenagers belies his interest in saving them from an experience like his (which I have no doubt was difficult, obviously life-changing). But however demanding the devil was of his faith is no excuse to lead others into whatever fray he sees fit. He's dealing with dangerous territory and he's not really aware of what he's doing.
Let's follow that big commandment, our challenge as believers: love the heck out of this guy. Pray for him. Write to him. Send him scripture in the mail. Personal testimonials. Then let God do his work. Praise the Lord that Our God is sovereign and can save this guy!

"..When you and your children return to the Lord your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul.. then the Lord will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from the nations where he scattered you. Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the Lord your God will gather you and bring you back."
Deuteronomy 30:2-4

February 6, 2007

Exercising demons

No, that's not a spelling error. I mean I had some demons on the run today for nearly an hour.

In my work as a caregiver I've met some very interesting characters, but none so deserving of your prayers as Chuck, a 79-year-old man who suffers from some serious demon possession. Wait, wait. That's too much too soon. You need some background information first...

Chuck was born in 1927 and raised on the southside of Chicago. He grew up with mom, dad and ten brothers and sisters. Age-wise he's somewhere in the middle of them. His mother, a devout Catholic who tried her hardest just to get everybody fed and herself to confession every week. His father was admittedly a hardworking man, but only made it home- after the bar- long enough each night to beat his children bloody. Chuck learned early on to literally fight for his life and the lives of his younger, weaker siblings. "Dad's weakness was the bottle," Chuck told me. "I never took to it like he did, no way."

In addition to family conflict Chuck saw a lot of it on the streets of his neighborhood. For those of you who haven't talked at length with a Chicagoan 75 years or older lately, let me fill you in: Chicago was no picnic in the "old days," in fact the southside saw just as much violence between Irish, Polish, Germans and African-Americans as they do on the westside now with Hispanic and Black groups. Probably more since gangsters really did run the city back then, leaving law enforcement absent from most neighborhood brawls. "When someone had a problem with you, you'd tell 'em you'd beat the ---- out of them." This is how the majority of Chuck's teenage recollections begin.

His early twenties saw Chuck in the factory and during the war, since he was fortunate to stay out of it ("I didn't want to fight [foreigners]"), Chuck used the time to hone his cabinet and woodworking skills. This was only in his spare time, the hours not already devoted to the job or his newfound love of a hobby, boxing. Eventually Chuck met "a nice girl, too nice for [him]" (Dorothy), married her, moved her out of the old neighborhood and had two children.
They even went to church back then, so he told me. "Oh sure, we went every week."

After a long life together, Dorothy passed away (about 12 years ago) and Chuck came to live with his daughter and son-in-law. The daughter is a Catholic (but non-practicing) and her husband was raised Hindu, but now participates in any "spiritual" endeavor during which he can get "caught up in the rapture."* This man (very de-masculinated) and his wife (obviously influenced by the 'feminist' movement and so is de-feminized) tell Chuck that, "it's ok to curse out God for doing this to [you]" and have encouraged me to comfort him in this fashion. They've also told him (in my presence) that when he's dead, "of course [they'll] miss [him], but [he'll] be dead in the ground in a box, and that's that."

Um... yeah. That's that?! That's the end of it? I beg to differ. Certainly the backgrounds of these two have something to do with their beliefs (or lack thereof): the son-in-law teaches science, which says everything has to be proven empirically. So if you can't see God, He must not be there. The woman was a Catholic and thinks you have a little bit of sin that builds up, but by attending mass and saying your ten 'Hail Marys' you can whittle it back down. Every now and then go to confession and the priest will absolve you.

I can't help but think about SIN when I talk to either one of these people. If it were true that we begin as basically good people, the problem of sin could be solved by the priests. When I brought this up to Chuck one time- at the very beginning of my evangelizing to him- he said, "Yeah, but that ain't it. We're not good, we're sinners." Amen. We're sinners. And with that comment, we began talking about Christ.

I've learned a lot from Chuck over the past few months. He was abused as a child. He's been talking to God for a long time, asking Him for help. Just today I found out that, as a young man, Chuck wanted to be a priest! But when he saw the hoops the Catholic church wanted him to jump through to please God, he said goodbye to that path. "That stuff don't impress Him." Yes, it's what's in your heart, how you glorify God through your servanthood to others. Above all it's how close you hold tight to Jesus that pleases God.

This is what a typical morning is for me now, a morning of spreading the Gospel. True, I only spread it to one person. But if you knew how much the Spirit puts on my heart, what Scripture I'm led to, the words that leave my mouth that are poetic when they need to be and straightforward when required, you would understand the mystery and majesty of our Lord.

Every day I am challenged to justify my presence in Chuck's home. "How'd a young girl like you get stuck with a jerk like me?" he asks. Every day. And I give the same response; "I'm not stuck, I was chosen to be here. I don't know why, because it wasn't my will. But I try to delight in it every moment because it was God's will for me. It became my will." I heard on the radio today, "God hasn't called you to a place, He has called you to Himself." I didn't choose Chuck, but I draw closer to Jesus when I'm reading Chuck the Word. And I know it's not in my hands to change his heart, but I love being the one through whom God brought Chuck the truth!

I pray for Chuck every day for his heart to soften, for his unbelief to melt away and be replaces with utter gratitude at the grace He offers. Chuck knows he needs forgiveness, and he desperately craves the peace only Jesus can bring. Will you join me in praying for Chuck whenever you can? And please come back for updates on this story...

My sincerest thank you,

*I'm not kidding, that's actually what he told me. Funny thing is, getting "caught up in the rapture" is very much a Christian term and event, which he seems not to be aware of (see 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17). I doubt he'd use that phrase if he knew the truth behind it!


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