Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Big Catch

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I have no cute stories or analogies to this devotional. I feel like the scripture speaks for itself and I felt compelled to share with you this sense of urgency and challenge God has somewhat laid upon my heart. It stems from the passage found in Luke 5:

“Jesus Calls His First Disciples
1 One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret,[a] the people were crowding around him and listening to the word of God. 2 He saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. 3 He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
4 When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
5 Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”
6 When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. 7 So they signaled their partners in the other boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” 9 For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10 and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon’s partners.
Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will fish for people.” 11 So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. “ NIV

I feel like this passage of scripture has this continuum created within it. You can portion the passage, separating it sequentially, which leads up to an unexpected climax. One minute Christ is on shore with a group of people; then he moves to a boat just off the shore. Shortly after, he asks for the boat to be moved into a deeper area of the Lake and asks his disciples to cast their nets. Somewhat reluctantly, they obey and discover that they have just captured an unbelievable amount of fish—so much that the two boats begin to sink! Then they just leave it: leave it all and follow Christ. Curtain closes. Ha! My interest is not so much the miracle performed in capturing fish but rather the process that Christ took to call his disciples and how Luke described the experience differently than the other four gospel authors.

First. Christ was preaching by the Sea of Galilee and then he gets into Simon’s boat and preaches from there just beyond where he was standing before. Why? Why couldn’t Christ have just stayed on shore? Why Simon’s boat? I am not claiming to be a scholar at this portion of scripture but I do find the symbolism fascinating! There are other passages of scripture dealing with boats and faith: walking on water and the encounters of storms. I love it! I don’t even know what Christ preached on that day but just the fact that he positioned himself on a boat makes me think that he was preaching on a subject of faith, trust and dependence on the Lord. Maybe it was symbolizing “going” or “working” too since it was a mode of transportation and a form of trade. I feel like Christ was also preparing their hearts for a revelation, a miracle and even a test of obedience to what he spoke on. Are you in a season where Christ is preaching to you? Think about where you are at in life: you may not be encountering challenges or high risk involvement in advancing the Gospel, but rather sitting and listening to the Lord and growing in knowledge of his Word. It says that he was preaching to the crowd on “the word of God.” So maybe you’re at this point in life.

Second. Christ proceeds to ask Simon to move the boat further out into a deeper area. Again, I can’t help but be completely fascinated with the symbolizing represented just in the movement of the boat. He also asks Simon to cast out his net. Notice how hesitant Simon is in casting out his net because earlier in that same day, they had attempted and failed to catch anything. Eventually, he obeys and BAM! He witnesses a miracle in catching probably the largest amount of fish ever on record for the Sea of Galilee. He totally would have won an award, maybe a trophy or a life time supply of tarter sauce—who knows! The amount of fish filled two boats causing them both to sink. Simon recognizes how his slow response to Christ made him realize how sinful of a man he really was! He feels so incredibly unworthy of being in Christ’s presence. Miracles whether large or small reciprocate change and impact a life in so many different ways!
Ok, stop for a second and look at this point of the passage. Are you in this place? Has God now called you into a deeper area of life. “Deeper” may be to a different location, a new job, a new school, a new church, or area of mission. You’re not totally comfortable with the position you’re in but you know you’re suppose to be there and Christ is asking you to go even a step further by casting out a net: your net maybe starting a conversation; participating in some event; giving time, energy, resources to something or someone or maybe even sacrificing something so dear to your heart. You may look at Christ with exhausted or fearful eyes because you just do not see how anything good could come of you following through with what he has asked you to do. But because of what God’s Word says and the Holy Spirit’s nudge upon your heart, you follow through and discover a miracle has just taken place! Although it may have been considered a huge risk for failure, you are pleasantly surprised when a blessing comes from it! Are you floating in deep water with Christ right now? Do you recognize who you are in the presence of thee most Holy God?

Third. After this miracle has occurred it seems like our story has come to it’s ultimate climax but then it is cut short with a bit of a “cliff hanger.” Christ asks these men to walk away from it! To leave the fish and follow him. I was visiting with a dear friend of mine about this passage and he said “Think of the wealth those men could have had from that catch!” Or the lifetime supply of free tarter sauce right? Haha, Ok. Lame. But really! They would have been taken care of for a long time with that amount of fish. But I think they realized that there was more to obtain than the miracle---the miracle giver himself. So often we pray and pray for a miracle in life and discover when that prayer is answered or the miracle does occur, there is still this sense of wanting more. Not only that, but I think these disciples saw first hand the kind of Rabbi they were invited to join was unlike any other Rabbi they had ever seen or heard of and so when the opportunity came—they couldn’t help but follow him. These men knew that there was something different about Christ and that he was going to accomplish more than any other man. They may have also had some background knowledge on a coming Messiah and realized---this is what we have been waiting for and we need to go.

Are you at this point of the passage? Have you just been blessed immensely or witnessed a miracle but now have been challenged further to surrender it all and leave it at the foot of the cross? Maybe Christ isn’t asking you to totally get up and walk away from what you’re doing but is still asking for a form of surrender. Maybe Christ is asking you to walk away from a high-paying job for a job that will allow you to reach more people; maybe God is asking you to walk away from a relationship that is not glorifying Him; maybe God is asking you to totally change course in your life and calling you to a radically different life---whatever is going on, I suggest you apply what the disciples did and follow. It’s scary—but you cannot help but follow Christ.

I just want to pray through this scripture for you and myself. I am so, so challenged by it and don’t completely understand it and feel like it’s a passage that a lot of people can glean from. Let’s pray:
“Dear Heavenly Father, thank you so so much for this passage of scripture and the calling of your disciples. Wow! God we stand back in amazement as to how you orchestrated in your Word, the calling of your disciples. Lord we recognize your unique ability to see exactly where your children are at and how you draw them closer to you. God we thank you for the miracles you perform in our lives whether large or small and we recognize that a miracle or a blessing runs so much deeper than answering a prayer or fulfilling a need. We discover Lord that we desire you: the Miracle Giver. Lord I pray for those that are on the shore listening to you preach the Word; these people may not completely understand who you are or maybe they do but they don’t understand an aspect of who you are and so they are simply learning more about you—almost in a season of waiting and direction. Second, Lord we pray for those who you have called into deeper waters. Lord we pray that they would be quick to cast their nets. You have prepared them well for whatever task you desire them to do. God we pray that they would respond to the answer to prayer or the miracle in such a way that it brings recognition to your holiness, your faithfulness and your deep love and desire for them to know you more. And God, we pray for those who have been challenged to walk away from an opportunity whether relationally, financially, or an advancement in a career and to follow you to another place of mission: to be your disciple. Although it may appear that we are losing everything to follow you Lord, I pray that you would stir within our hearts a sense of peace that our surrender is not in vain but rather a simple response to something far greater than ourselves which leads to spending eternity basking in your glory. Continue to teach us what this passage looks like in each of our lives and apply what your Word says. We love you and desire you desperately Lord. Amen.”

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Made Known

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Do you ever feel like you’re nothing but a face in the crowd; just a spectator? All the college bowl games are fast approaching with the super bowl coming not too far behind and it always amazes me when you’re watching those games on TV and see you see these walls of people encircling the field. My brother recently went to a Vikings game and he was describing what he was wearing and said, “I’ll try and wave if the camera comes on me!” HA! You can imagine how difficult that would have been to see him in such a large crowd of purple-clothed people with the chance of a camera never coming even remotely close to his seating section.

In life, we may feel like just a spectator amongst the mass universe we live in. Louie Giglio is well known for his amazing sermons pointing out how our sun is just one among millions of other stars that are brighter, bigger and even more spectacular. With that being said, It’s easy to associate a feeling of insignificance, and rightfully so! We are but mere humans created to roam the earth for 80-90 years (if that); working and toiling at whatever jobs are available for us to do and matches our giftings, forming relationships with other humans and living for but a breath of span in time—right? To a degree yes! We’re nothing special—depending on what we are compared to: in comparison to a rock, we are complex and magnificently-made creatures but in comparison to God we are the lowest of lows, not worthy

Throughout all of the Old Testament God revealed and made himself known to various people in a variety of different ways. I thought it would be neat to give a highlight of each book in the Old Testament relating to God’s revelation to people. I hope you get the point by the end that God did not just show up in the New Testament but that he most certainly revealed himself to many different people throughout all scripture. If you don’t see it, I’m sorry—come see me because not going to lie, this is a tedious feat to pull off going through each Book---yet absolutely fascinating! I also ask for patience and grace as I attempt to do this because I am most certainly not an Old Testament scholar: there are several, ok many books that I just have a brief understanding but hopefully this is will help me review them and spur me (us) onto further studies! Enjoy:

In Genesis, God obviously made himself known to Adam and Eve as well as all creation when he formed the earth from “formless, empty, darkness.” In Exodus, God made himself known particularly to Moses as well as the Israelites by delivering them from captivity: he spoke to Moses in a burning bush, parted the red sea and performed many significant miracles. In Leviticus, God continued to make himself known to the Israelites as they were in route to the Promise Land. He also created several laws and regulations for different offerings. The Book of Numbers describes how God made himself known still to Moses and Aaron and at one point, through a consuming fire that removes part of the outskirts of their camp (Num.11). In Deuteronomy, God continues to reveal himself to Moses, Aaron and other leaders of the Israelites. Even in their disobedience, the Israelites are fully aware of God’s presence whether in the form of discipline or in deliverance from His anger. God reveals to Moses the Ten Commandments and makes promises to the Israelites of victory over the inhabitants of the Promise Land. Moses passes on and Joshua takes the position as leader of the Israelites. Joshua describes God being made known through the victory over many Kings. In Judges, God makes himself known through continual deliverance in battles with other tribes. God reveals himself in the book of Ruth by taking a widowed, godly-woman, Ruth (go figure!) and Boaz, an upright man of God and together in marriage established the beginning genealogies of David (Obed, was the son of Jesse). First and Second Samuel God makes himself known to people such as Hannah, Samuel, and eventually, David. We all know that David was known to be a “man after God’s own heart.” We read countless passages of David interacting with God throughout this book as well as the main author of the book of Psalm. First and Second Kings share stories of remarkable encounters people, particularly Kings have with God whether they recognize Him or not—He makes himself known. The story of the Prophet Elijah outrunning a chariot in 1 Kings 18 is one of my favorite passages of scripture: how do you suppose he managed to do that? The verse says that “the power of the Lord came upon Elijah,” so he just tucked his cloak and off he went! Just think how much damage I could have done running for SDSU if I would have had the Lord come upon me during track! HA! Ok—bringing it back.

Moving into the First and Second Chronicles; 1 Chronicles is loaded with names upon names of individuals with specific lineages: It’s somewhat overwhelming to look at these lists of people and realize that each of them had a role, big or small, in accomplishing God’s purpose and will. After the genealogies, we get into the story of King David’s reign—again, his story is well-known and saturated with stories of God’s revelations to David personally or regarding Him as a King of Israel. Solomon’s story begins at the tailend of 1 Chronicles and into 2 Chronicles. As David’s son, Solomon was said to be “highly exalted by the Lord” above any other king Israel had up to this point in time. We also are aware that Solomon was blessed immensely with immeasurable wisdom from the Lord: He also wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes describing how even though wisdom is a wonderful gift to possess, that it is meaningless!

A highlight in the Book of Ezra is a passage that describes the priest’s desire and his leading role in having the Exiles confess of their unfaithfulness to the Lord by marrying women from other tribes. In a prayer he describes how the Lord has been gracious to them by not punishing more than what they had been because of the wrongful act. Much of Nehemiah deals with the rebuilding of a wall in Jerusalem. The wall has opposition but eventually is built and it says that people surrounding the area were astounded and realized that no one would be able to complete such a task without the help of the LORD. The story of Queen Esther is described in none other than the book of Esther. She along with Mordecai end up being true heroes for their people by saving them from being destroyed by Haman. God chose to use and reveal his power through Esther by giving her such a highly esteemed position.

The book of Job is one that makes your heart sink: it starts out great but by the end your heart just aches for the relief of trials that Job encounters. The book however, is a crucial story describing God’s sovereignty amidst great adversity in a man’s life and how God gave Job the ability to remain faithful even when everything was taken away from him! Are you still with me? We are getting there! Is it not great though to just take a few moments and go through these great passages of scripture? As described earlier, much of the book of Psalms is written by David and his passionate pursuit for His own heart! David writes very beautifully and extensively about God’s character throughout the Psalms. God reveals himself in Proverbs through very simple and basic commands of everyday living. It gives guidance on how to walk upright before the Lord and how to recognize folly when you see it. Touching just briefly on Ecclesiasties, as described earlier in relation to King Solomon, this book truly proves the point that so much of our humanly lives are littered with obtaining vanities. God revealed to Solomon that there is more to life than all that this earthly life has to offer.

Song of Solomon, to me, is considered nothing shy of a glimpse into the love God has for his people. Although the entire book is basically poems written back and forth between a man and a women, you cannot help but see God’s unbelievable passion for those he loves and his desire to be a part of their lives. The book of Isaiah has quickly become a book that I reference quite often because it is FULL of passages of scripture describing God’s faithfulness to his people as well as the foundational promises of the coming of Christ. Similarly, God uses the prophet Jeremiah to proclaim the need of Israel’s repentance and glimpses of the coming Messiah. Lamentations is a lot like Job; your heart somewhat drops to the floor after reading it because it is a book about great sorrow. However, amidst the sorrow, God uses the author to proclaim his mercy and faithfulness: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases his mercies never come to an end, they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness!” (3:22-23)

God used the book of Ezekiel to describe how the prophet Ezekiel worked with people in the middle of a crisis; spurring them onto pursuing holiness even in trial. Daniel is a remarkable book in the sense that God reveals himself BIG time through Daniel. Whether Daniel is in the Lions den, refusing to eat the King’s meat or discerning dreams, God revealed himself greatly through such a simple man. I feel like Hosea is somewhat of a sequal to Song of Solomon in the sense that it reveals greatly God’s concern and love for his bride even though she is incredibly unfaithful. God chooses to reveal himself through Hosea by giving him the ability to love an unfaithful woman. Joel is another book involving a prophet that lives during difficult times in leading people to repentance and endurance of waiting for an “outpouring of the spirit,” (2:28-32). In Amos, the Israelites are really looking for some relief from their eniemies and are waiting for the day of the Lord to bring justice. Amos describes judgment that will come to much of the disobedient people of Israel but also the hope of restoration of those who have ‘fallen.’ Obadiah, although brief describes what is to come with judgment as well as his future reign after restoring his people. Oh Jonah! ( Can you tell I am starting to get a little loopy—just a few more books left, pace yourself!) The book of Jonah is a remarkable story of a man who is disobedient yet God shows remarkable mercy in the most unusual way possible! It is truly a story of the revealation of God’s compassion on people even when they are disobedient. Micah is a book that cannot describe the coming of Christ any better as a “Shepherd-King,” Nahum relates to Jonah in describing the destruction of Nineveh which could easily represent God’s immense power and judgement that has, is currently and even more so, will take place in the future. God and Habakkuk (either said Hab-a-cook, or Habab-kuk—whatever most easily rolls of your tongue) dialogue throughout the entire book. God confirms his sovereignty to him and his desire for the righteousness to live by faith. Zephaniah deals greatly with the coming of the Day of the Lord. The ESV commentary on the theme of Haggai describes the theme of “The restoration of the Lord’s house by the people of God will meditate God’s presence.” Zechariah is a book revealing more prophecy of what is to come and God continues to give snapshots into the coming of the good shepherd. DRUMROLL PLEASE! Malachi is a book on a “wake-up call to renew the covenant of fidelity” (ESV commentary) and is indeed the last book in the Old Testament (not necessarily chronologically leading up to Christ but a conclusion to the books of prophecy).

HA, now what? Well, the entire purpose behind this ginormous review of the Old Testament was to build the crescendo of the coming of Christ. As you can see, God made himself known throughout all of scripture but it wasn’t until He revealed Himself through Christ that WE could be made known because of the opportunity to “hide our lives with Christ.” God knew that although he had revealed himself very plainly and deliberately throughout Old Testament times, with many of those people he described obtaining righteousness through faith (they had faith and hope in the coming Messiah). However God knew that he needed to make himself known by being made into flesh; dwelling among people to form a much deeper relationship than ever before. John 1:18 describes this : No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” And later on in John 15:15, Christ says this about being made known: “15 I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” And even more so, Christ describes how he will make US KNOWN to his Father through him in John 17:25- 26

“25 “Righteous Father, though the world does not know you, I know you, and they know that you have sent me. 26 I have made you[a] known to them, and will continue to make you known in order that the love you have for me may be in them and that I myself may be in them.”

Isn’t that a beautiful piece of scripture? It’s a portion of scripture when Jesus is praying for various groups of believers. Passages in Ephesians touch on this as well in explaining how the Law and prophetic word of the Old Testament maybe mysterious at first but is finally made known through the coming of Christ, his death and resurrection.

Lastly, 1 John 3 describes what is to come in Christ’s second coming:

“1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears,[a] we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.”

Cling to the truth that those of us who have surrendered our lives to Christ and claim him to be both Lord and Savior, are currently known as children of God---however, when Christ returns we will be known as something else—something like Christ because we will see him as he truly is! How wonderful it is to be made known! We are not just faces in the crowd, rather distinctly made known by our God through our faith in Jesus Christ. Live in the light of being made known!

Monday, December 20, 2010


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There is something to behold in watching the sun as it bursts forth from the horizon on a frigid, winter morning. The Midwestern landscape that I grew up on is generally blanketed with snow and is quickly transformed into a sea of crystals, reflecting the sun’s rays in all directions. Even though the air is brisk and causing shivers the moment you step out the door, when the sun rises it is as though you can relax and allow the beams to cut through the frozen air and warm you.

You maybe living in a cold, wintry darkness right now: unsure of what this life is for and what it’s all about. You have had some unforeseen events happen in your life leaving you empty and aching for a sense of restoration or wholeness. You may just be lost, unsure of who you are and how you ended up at this point in life. Sometimes the realization of this can cause immense sorrow causing you to panic. Darkness is often associated with sin like in Psalm143:3 where David says this:

“The enemy pursues me, he crushes me to the ground; he makes me dwell in the darkness like those long dead.”

Whether you actually sinned or you were acted upon by someone else’s sin, it leaves you in the darkness feeling as though you are dwelling with the dead. Darkness covers sin easily and then creates a suffocating atmosphere that continually reminds you of the act of sin committed. But when the sun brings its first rays of light into the darkness, it is as though it the light moves darkness out of the way until only light surrounds you.

The Darkness Turns to Light

19 When someone tells you to consult mediums and spiritists, who whisper and mutter, should not a people inquire of their God? Why consult the dead on behalf of the living? 20 Consult God’s instruction and the testimony of warning. If anyone does not speak according to this word, they have no light of dawn. 21 Distressed and hungry, they will roam through the land; when they are famished, they will become enraged and, looking upward, will curse their king and their God. 22 Then they will look toward the earth and see only distress and darkness and fearful gloom, and they will be thrust into utter darkness. Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the nations, by the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan—

2 The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
Isaiah 8:19-9:2

Isaiah 60
The Glory of Zion
1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3 Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

As scripture passages continue to describe God’s light and his glory revealed through light, it as though it crescendos to a moment in time that we are celebrating now:

John 1
The Word Became Flesh
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Those of you who are overwhelmed with darkness: do you see verse 5? Do you see what it says: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” There is hope! The hope comes from Jesus Christ, God’s SON that came into this world as a means to pierce the darkness by BEING pierced. No matter how long or how dark you may feel, when light comes, it completely removes darkness. In the same way, Christ came to take away the sins of the entire world. He knew you were trapped in darkness, chained to darkness and so God brought forth his Son to deliver you. He desires for you to dwell in the light with him by accepting his offering of grace through an abiding relationship with Him. Leave your relationship with darkness and allow a new one to be formed with the SON.

One final thought, I was driving to church this past Sunday listening to one of my favorite bands, Remedy Drive. I love Christmas music, but I needed a break so I popped in the CD “Daylight,” by Remedy Drive and discovered that, although it may not have jingle bells in the background it can most definitely associate itself with the coming of the Christ. In fact, I think the shepherds could have been jamming out to it in anticipation to see Jesus. It doesn’t have to stop at Christmas though: do you realize that we are now back into a position of waiting for the Messiah to return? Christ came to save the world and He is coming again to take those of us who are his for eternity. I encourage you to put yourself in the place of people who are anticipating the coming of the Christ child only now, when he comes again, he won’t be found in a quiet manager; instead, Jesus Christ will return in all His glory.
Eden Restored
1 Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb 2 down the middle of the great street of the city. On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month. And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. 3 No longer will there be any curse. The throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servants will serve him. 4 They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. 5 There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.
Revelation 22:1-5

I wanted to include the video of the song by Remedy Drive and the lyrics. A quick plug for the band, their music is generally centered on this topic of the second coming of Christ which is rare in today’s music realm. I really appreciate the message they give during their concerts and hope that if they tour near you, go and be encouraged by the message of the second coming of the SON.

Has everything you've counted on
Left you right here with no warning
Have your dreams become invisible
Wait with me dear till the morning
Light will make the night burnout

Hold on - daylight is coming
Daylight is coming to break the dawn
Daylight is coming

The brightest stars are falling down
Is hope lost in the black skies
The darkness must precede the dawn
Hold on till the sunrise
Light will make your night fade out

Monday, December 13, 2010

Powerful Grace

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You hear stories everyday of people who have performed heroically in moments before disaster strikes. The following day, newspaper headlines may read: “Man Saves Elderly Woman from Bus;” “Son Rescues Father by Lifting Tractor Up;” “Child Outsmarts House Robber.” When asked the famous question, “How’d you do it?” the hero often humbly and somewhat puzzled replies, “Something just came over me—I couldn’t help it! I just knew what I needed to do.” Science would tell you it’s an adrenaline rush; hormones influx in the body causing the heart rate to increase and blood vessels to dilate preparing the body for a quick response and perform an action that appears impossible. Physically it makes sense that the body would respond like that due to physiological factors, like hormones however, mentally--even though it may be considered ‘physical,’ there has to be more to the response. Who in their right mind would risk their life for another person?

In the Bible, the Apostle Paul is often writing from a jail cell or in chains. In a letter to the church of Colossae, he explains his purpose and ministry to the church (1:24-29). He says that he rejoices in sufferings for the sake of the church. His desire was to “proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” The he says something that somewhat stands-out as a key component to his reasoning of rejoicing in the midst of such opposition: “For this, I toil, struggling with all HIS energy that HE powerfully works within me.” (vs.29). Did you see the emphasis on “His” and “He?” Do you see how Paul did attribute his energy to some ‘adrenaline rush,’ or some surreal human level of love for others—he gave all of the credit for his energy to Christ. Yes, God may work through whomever he desires and He has designed the body to have remarkable reflexes but there is something much more powerful moving inside Paul than mere chemicals—the Holy Spirit.

1 Corinthians 12:4-7 says this:
4 There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. 5 There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6 There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. 7 Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good….All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”
In this text, the spiritual gifts include gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, gifts of healing, working with miracles, prophecy, the ability to distinguish the spirits, gifts of speaking in tongue and interpretation: not your everyday gifts. Notice a similar tribute to God as the giver of these gifts: “There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.” The manifestation of the Spirit with the gifts being ‘empowered’ by the same Spirit is referring to the manifestation of the Holy Spirit of the Triune God. These spiritual gifts are also spoken of in Acts when the Church is first being established. The gifts were most certainly displayed among the disciples and apostles. Acts 4 says this:

Peter and John Before the Sanhedrin
1 The priests and the captain of the temple guard and the Sadducees came up to Peter and John while they were speaking to the people. 2 They were greatly disturbed because the apostles were teaching the people, proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection of the dead. 3 They seized Peter and John and, because it was evening, they put them in jail until the next day. 4 But many who heard the message believed; so the number of men who believed grew to about five thousand.
5 The next day the rulers, the elders and the teachers of the law met in Jerusalem. 6 Annas the high priest was there, and so were Caiaphas, John, Alexander and others of the high priest’s family. 7 They had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: “By what power or what name did you do this?”
8 Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: “Rulers and elders of the people! 9 If we are being called to account today for an act of kindness shown to a man who was lame and are being asked how he was healed, 10 then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed. 11 Jesus is
“‘the stone you builders rejected,
which has become the cornerstone.’
12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”
13 When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. 14 But since they could see the man who had been healed standing there with them, there was nothing they could say. 15 So they ordered them to withdraw from the Sanhedrin and then conferred together. 16 “What are we going to do with these men?” they asked. “Everyone living in Jerusalem knows they have performed a notable sign, and we cannot deny it. 17 But to stop this thing from spreading any further among the people, we must warn them to speak no longer to anyone in this name.”
18 Then they called them in again and commanded them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. 19 But Peter and John replied, “Which is right in God’s eyes: to listen to you, or to him? You be the judges! 20 As for us, we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

And continuing on picking up at verse 31, after praying…

31 After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly.
The Believers Share Their Possessions
32 All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 33 With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all 34 that there were no needy persons among them. For from time to time those who owned land or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales 35 and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone who had need.
I love, love, love verse 33: “With great power the apostles continued to testify to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all that there were no needy person among them.”

Do you see that? Not only was power working among the apostles to perform miracles but GRACE. In fact, grace is what moved them to give to those who were needy around them.

With all this said, we are entering into a season of giving. You have a shopping list a mile long of gifts that you plan to get for people you care about—and maybe a few you don’t really care but it’s “part of the season,” right? Before you add another trinket, gismo or gadget to that list, could you do me a favor? Do you think you could sit down and think of all the people that have hurt you in the past—day, week, month, year, decade, lifetime: I know, I picture you squirming already as I type this, but do it anyways. Ok, having those individuals in your mind—feelings are starting to erupt ever-so slightly in your heart and it is as though needles are starting to jab into it growing stronger and stronger with every recognition of the person’s name. Here we go: disaster is upon us-- that bus is drawing closer to that little old lady; picture your father sinking under the tires of the tractor or the sudden realization that a robber has just entered your home: how do you react? What are you going to respond in the moment you are challenged not with a bus, not with a tractor or a robber: how do you respond with the challenge to forgive? The Bible is pretty clear on this: John 13 says this:

“12 When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16 Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.”

Whose feet did Christ wash? His disciples right? What are the names of those disciples? Peter…John…James…Philip…Andrew…Bartholomew…Matthew…Thomas… James son of Alphaeus…Simon who was called the Zealot….Judas son of James….and ….Who? Come again? Judas? Oh yah, and Judas Iscariot. What did Judas do to Christ? He became a traitor—he sold information to the police for the life of our Beloved Christ and yet, Christ not only washed his feet, but died for him. They say “timing is everything,” and if that is a true statement, then there is significance in the verse that says: “For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that, while we were still sinners, Christ died for us since therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God” (Romans 5:7-9). While we were yet sinners---while we were passing coins—committing adultery with the world, Christ died for us.

Later on this theme of grace is interwoven back in on the topic of “Death in Adam, Life in Christ” in saying this: “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many” (Romans 5:14-15).

Running out into the street in front of a bus to save an innocent, old lady may appear to be much easier than forgiving someone who has wronged you. But if you would only recognize the death sentence your own sin gave Christ; the power of God’s grace in the light of it and the work of the Holy Spirit in your own life ---you may end up surprising yourself this Christmas when you give the gift of grace to someone on your ‘naughty list.’

Remember that dirty feet were washed by the unblemished yet soon to be scarred hands of Christ.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Come, Let Us Adore Him

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Come, Let Us Adore Him

Oh, come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant,
Oh, come ye, oh, come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him, born the King of angels;
Oh, come, let us adore Him, oh, come, let us adore Him,
Oh come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
Sing, choirs of angels, sing in exultation;
Oh, sing, all ye citizens of heav’n above!
Glory to God, all glory in the highest;
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be all glory giv’n;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;

“Oh Come All Ye Faithful” is one of my most favorite Christmas hymns. It is a song that reminds us of how joyful we are to be in exalting the Lord for sending His son, Jesus Christ. In Luke 2 where this song has it’s origins, the Shepherds encounter the angels glorifying God in announcing the coming of Jesus. The shepherds say to one another following the surprise visit “Come, let us go and see what the Lord has told us.” After adoring the little Savior in tattered cloth, it says that the Shepherds returned glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard. Ha! I picture the shepherds running off into the evening doing those “side kicks” in the air with inexpressible joy with the fact that they had just seen the face of the Word made flesh!

My prayer for you as you sing this hymn in preparation of Christmas Day, that you do what it says. The title of the hymn can be cut into three sections: “Come.” Jesus Christ invites everyone to “Come follow me,” in countless passages in the New Testament. If you have not accepted Christ as both Lord and Savior of your life: I encourage you to drop what you’re doing; stop living this life for yourself, working for your salvation by ‘being good’ and surrender it all to Christ. Second, “Let us” is plural! The phrase “let us” appears to imply a group of people you’re among. Once you’ve surrendered your life to Christ, you are no longer a lonely out-cast, rather you are a part of the body of Christ! Ah! What a blessing it is to be a part of the family of God; to serve the Lord alongside brothers and sisters; to run alongside and battle sin that so easily entangles us. Are you making an effort to be a part of a group of people that are striving after Christ? Take a moment and reflect if you would be a part of a “let us,” in this chorus.

Lastly, “Adore Him.” Adore. Adore means to worship or honor; to regard with loving admiration and devotion. Oh how it is my hearts plea that you would join me in simply admiring our Lord Jesus Christ and what He has done for us on the cross. How do you think you would have reacted if you were one of the Shepherds visiting the Christ child? I do not think anything would be able to destroy the gaze I would have upon the face of Christ. I think I would be so fixated on the eyes of my precious Lord Jesus and stare into them knowing that He, even as a tiny baby, has enough power to calm the seas; to cause the earth to tremble with merely an utter of His voice and to conquer sin and death. Take a moment and truly adore Christ today—and everyday from here on out.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

The Dwelling Place

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How many places have you worshipped in your life time? I have always loved going to different churches and experiencing worship. I have had the privilege of attending many different worship services in a variety of settings. As a little girl, I attended in a country church surrounded by corn fields and pastures. In high school, we moved to a different church that was on a hill in the city next to a busy street. I have worshipped in a clay and brick building in the middle of the Amazon as well as an acoustically-rich Cathedral in California. I have sat in a tiny hospital room and worshipped alongside family as we watch a loved one pass away as well as celebrate with residents in a Children’s Hospital. I have sat around a campfire overlooking a calm and peaceful lake and I have been on top of a mountain over-looking miles of trees. Hidden down a path in the woods, I have worshipped in a beautiful chapel surrounded by a pond as well as a warehouse-like brick building among the homeless men of New York City. Although the setting of a worship service may be beautiful; vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows, and polished pews, nothing will compare with the temple we who proclaim the name of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior will experience one day:

“A New Heaven and a New Earth
1 Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,”[a] for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. 2 I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’[b] or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

5 He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”
6 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. 7 Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children. 8 But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars—they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulfur. This is the second death.”

The New Jerusalem, the Bride of the Lamb

9 One of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and said to me, “Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” 10 And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God. 11 It shone with the glory of God, and its brilliance was like that of a very precious jewel, like a jasper, clear as crystal. 12 It had a great, high wall with twelve gates, and with twelve angels at the gates. On the gates were written the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. 13 There were three gates on the east, three on the north, three on the south and three on the west. 14 The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
15 The angel who talked with me had a measuring rod of gold to measure the city, its gates and its walls. 16 The city was laid out like a square, as long as it was wide. He measured the city with the rod and found it to be 12,000 stadia[c] in length, and as wide and high as it is long. 17 The angel measured the wall using human measurement, and it was 144 cubits[d] thick.[e] 18 The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass. 19 The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone. The first foundation was jasper, the second sapphire, the third agate, the fourth emerald, 20 the fifth onyx, the sixth ruby, the seventh chrysolite, the eighth beryl, the ninth topaz, the tenth turquoise, the eleventh jacinth, and the twelfth amethyst.[f] 21 The twelve gates were twelve pearls, each gate made of a single pearl. The great street of the city was of gold, as pure as transparent glass.
22 I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. 23 The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and the Lamb is its lamp. 24 The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it. 25 On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. 26 The glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. 27 Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.”
Revelation 21 NIV

Notice shortly after the measurements taken by the angel are described in verses 15-21, verse 22 states something that, to me is unfathomable. “I did not see a temple in the city, because the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple.” Think about that. How beautiful of a picture that will be. God will be our dwelling place of worship: not a building built by human hands or even a setting on top of a hill—these are but slums in comparison to temple we will worship in one day in the presence of the Lord!

What do we do then until that wonderful day is upon us? In the letter to the church of Ephesus, Paul touches on this subject of worship:
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
We are to worship our chief cornerstone, Jesus Christ and through him, we become a place for God to dwell. 1 Corinthians 3 re-iterates that we are the God’s temple through Jesus Christ:

“10 By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, 13 their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. 14 If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames. 16 Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person; for God’s temple is sacred, and you together are that temple.”

Is that not great? We have the privilege of being a temple of the living God now! God could have dwelt in anywhere else but he chose to dwell in you! Do what the Word says and continue to build this temple on Jesus. Do not put your hope in temporary materials but rather in a firm foundation found in the Word of God. And keep in mind there will come a day when we will enter a temple far greater than anything we could ever imagine as it states in Isaiah 2

The Mountain of the LORD
1 In the last days
the mountain of the LORD’s temple will be established
as the highest of the mountains;
it will be exalted above the hills,
and peoples will stream to it.
2 Many nations will come and say,
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the temple of the God of Jacob.
He will teach us his ways,
so that we may walk in his paths.”

Monday, November 15, 2010

Conforming Out of Reverence for Christ

Image is compliments of my amazingly-talented and beautiful friend, Heidi :)

Instructions for Christian Households

21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.
22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior. 24 Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.
25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing[b] her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.

A girl very close and dear to me expressed a degree of disappointment after hearing a message on this passage. It wasn’t that she saw the passage of scripture as offensive or even really that difficult but rather she saw the passage as something she could not apply in her season of singleness. Although I can relate to the disappointment at times (ok the girl was me!ha), I cannot thank God for the revelation of scripture passages like this to me in efforts to prepare my heart for what may come when I do enter into a relationship someday, but at the real-life application right now! We need to see scripture the way God has intended it: in the light of our relationship with Christ and NOT in our current season of life, circumstance or situation. Think of Paul! He wrote the passage (inspired by God of course) and he didn’t touch marriage with a ten-foot pole! There is obviously something to be obtained from the passage no matter what your ‘status on facebook’ maybe!

I know I could go at this from a thousand different angles and we could sit an talk about it for hours however, I wanted to make this short and sweet and to the point (this is rare for me!) Right away in verse 21 Paul tells the church of Ephesus to “Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ.” I feel like that verse alone summarizes what is to follow. When you submit to one another it’s not just to be nice to one another; it’s an act of worship towards Christ. This concept is repeated throughout several other passages of scripture (Matt. 25:36; Matt. 5:16;1 Peter 2:12) The passage that came to my mind as a parallel to this one in Ephesians is John 15:1-17. In this passage, Christ talks about Himself being the vine and we are the branches. A vine and it’s branches are one; together; connected; if you were to chop off a branch, you would be impacting the entire vine. When you accept Christ as both Lord and Savior of your life, you are submit to Him and ultimately, conform yourself to Him (Romans 8:29). This concept of unity is nothing new—glance back to Genesis 1:26-27. God created us in his image, “in our likeness” (Ding, ding, ding—Trinity passage: another topic for another day!). 1 and 2 Corinthians address this as well: “And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.” (15:49); “And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (3:18). Colossians 3:9-11 states this:

“9 Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator. 11 Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.”

In a culture that tells you that “You must define yourself! Make yourself unique! Stand out—get attention,” it is pure ludicrous to even think about conforming to the humble image of Jesus Christ. There’s a song by LaCrae that talks about being a rebel and conforming to Christ rather than the world. On this particular recording I have, John Piper is in the background preaching about what a “true rebel” looks like. When people think that they are actually ‘rebeling’ or ‘defining themselves’ and attempting to set themselves apart from the crowd, they are actually conforming to the world. HA somewhat of a dizzy concept! But going back to the passage in Ephesians, we read that;

“31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.”[c] 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church.”

Becoming one flesh means that you conform to one another and are represented as ‘one person.’ No, I am not saying that you loose all identity when you become married and you are completely changed into the person you married (although, I’m convinced that couples begin to look like one another do they not? Isn’t that crazy? HA, it’s kind of fun to look through pictures of couples and totally see how they somewhat look like each other).

The big take-home message that I was able to take from this passage more than the obvious submission to one another/wedding passage was that if you cannot conform to the likeness of Christ by submitting to Him as both Lord and Savior of your life, marriage is going to be pretty challenging! If you don’t experience the self-sacrifice daily in your relationship with Christ who is perfect, how do you think you’ll react when you try doing life with another person who is imperfect! So rather react like my friend :) to passages of scripture addressing the topic of marriage in disappointment, apply what it’s saying right now to your relationship with Christ. Allow the Spirit to conform yourself to the image of Christ by being submissive in areas you just don’t quite want to ‘give up.’ I don’t have to be married to know how difficult this concept of conformity is; all you have to do is visit a newly wed couple after the ‘honeymoon phase’ and you’ll learn real quick about the long and bumpy road ahead of them!

Friday, November 5, 2010

He Is Jealous For Me.

He is Jealous For Me.

Do you think it’s possible to be jealous of what you do have? Seems a bit bizarre does it not? Generally, we think of jealousy as being an act of desiring something we do not have. How often do you find yourself envious of someone else—both outwardly in your actions and subliminally inside of you? A lot! I know I catch my mind drifting towards an attitude of jealousy. But what about being jealous of what you DO have? It’s possible!

I was reading in James this morning and was reading over a passage of scripture that is always convicting; take a look:

“Submit Yourselves to God
1 What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? 2 You desire but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God. 3 When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures.
4 You adulterous people,[a] don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
Very convicting passage is it not? You may be thinking to yourself, “Well the jealousy described here is not towards something I have, it is very obvious that the jealousy is towards something I do not have (vs.2). Well what does this next verse say?

“5 Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us[b]?”

This verse literally opened up my mind to the character of God. Read it again. Again. Ok, let’s think about the definition of jealousy that we are use to: desiring something we do not have; now try and put that definition into this passage you discover, God’s jealousy is a different kind of jealousy. It says that “he jealously longs for the spirit HE CAUSED TO DWELL IN US.” What? Well, if HE caused it to dwell in us, why is he jealous of it? It’s interesting isn’t it? Let’s read on.

“6 But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says:
“God opposes the proud
but shows favor to the humble.”[c]
7 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.
11 Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister[d] or judges them speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not keeping it, but sitting in judgment on it. 12 There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you—who are you to judge your neighbor?”

God is jealous for us. (Not just a lyric from David Crowder Band) But do you realize that He doesn’t need us—really. Do not get all puffed-up thinking that the God of this universe; the Alpha and Omega NEEDS us but rather he WANTS us. We make friendship with the world in the way we live our lives; in the way we allow our minds to think and how quickly we give our heart away to unfulfilling pleasures. That’s when God grows jealous: when He sees our actions, our thoughts and our hearts devoted to something or even someone else. Think of a husband who is madly in love with his wife and yet she finds another man interesting; she finds more joy in recognition for her work or she is consumed with the vanity in adorning herself. James could not have used a more perfect term in describing us, the Bride of Christ: “You adulterous people.” Don’t you realize that you cannot even claim the spirit that God has placed inside of you to be your doing? Who we are, our innermost being---our soul, is not even meant for us---do you get that?
He gives grace. Ha, I feel like the sun should come over the horizon when I say that phrase. He gives grace knowing that we are quick to fall into a state of being haughty and proud—even after we have come into a relationship with him. That’s why the passage goes on to remind us that “God opposes the proud, but shows favor to the humble.” It’s hard to be humble! How do we do it? Is it putting ourselves down? NO! Oh man, if I have learned anything about humility is that the biggest lie of it is thinking less of ourselves in the effort of appearing to be humble. I believe I heard it first from Reverand Jack Graham my sophomore year of college. It was super early in the morning and I was getting ready; doing my usual ‘Man, you got a lot of areas to work on in your life speech” when Mr. Graham’s voice popped the conversation-cloud above my head with the words “ Do you not realize that humility is not in the act of thinking less of yourself but rather, true humility is when you think of yourself less.” Humility comes when we think of God and others before we think of ourselves. The passage says that we are to submit ourselves to God. Resist the devil. Don’t give me that “ But it’s so hard!” Do you think that I do not know how difficult it can be when a stupid voice or thought is planted in your mind and quickly takes root; choking the pleasant fruits of the Spirit and joyful freedom in Christ we are suppose to experience? He has no power! Resist him and go on with your day! (I am somewhat frustrated. Ok, down-right angry at the amount of life I have wasted worrying and being anxious—about nothing so please understand I am preaching to myself more than anyone!).
Draw near to God. My good friend and beautiful sister in Christ, Ashley is so quick to remind me of just how good God is and why He is worthy of praise. How does one draw near to God? Draw near to God by recognizing Him for who He is. Read Psalms—David wrote countless Psalms about the Glory of God and why He is worthy of ALL praise and HONOR and GLORY. That in itself will humble you because you’ll be seeing yourself in the light of who God is. The next two verses are depressing are they not? Ha. “Go over there and roll around in ashes, mourn, wail. Man when was the last time you wailed? When you were like three after falling off of your tricycle right? James is asking us to take the lowest position possible and for us to recognize the hostility of sin; the loneliness of sin; the devastation of sin; the disgusting nature of sin; the scratching your finger nails on the chalkboard of sin—you get what I’m saying? It’s nasty. It’s putrid. It should make us vomit and the minute we sin, it should tear us up inside so much that the wailing we did as a three year old is nothing in comparison to a heart’s cry discovering it’s disobedience to Our Loving Father. You guys. It’s not about us. Do you get it? Get over the jealousy junk: the pride junk in your life ok? Quit swimming around in it and flee from it; you have legs; you have the Word of God and you have the Holy Spirit ( the same one who raised Christ from the dead.) You really CAN do all things through Christ who gives you strength…..really!
Why make God jealous of what He already has? Yes, HE gives grace. But why not just submit yourself to Him and allow Him to show favor to you and to lift you up? Who cares about being lifted up here on earth. One of my all-time most favorite songs is by the band Mercy Me called “Crazy.” I think it fits in well with the concept of choosing the world over God. I encourage you to read the passage and allow the Spirit to just move in you and then listen to the song.
Youtube Video:
Why I would I spend my life longing for the day that it would end..
Why would I spend my time pointing to another man..
Isn't that crazy

How can I find hope in dying, with promises unseen..
How can I learn your way is better
In everything I'm taught to be..
Isn't that crazy

I have not been called to the wisdom of this world..
But to a God who's calling out to me..
And even though the world may think
I'm losing touch with reality
It would be crazy
To choose this world over eternity

And if I boast let me boast
Of filthy rags made clean
And if I glory let me glory
In my Savior's suffering
Isn't that crazy

And as I live this daily life
I trust you for everything
And I will only take a step
When I feel You leading me
Isn't that crazy

I have not been called to the wisdom of this world..
But to a God who is calling out to me..
And even though the world my think
I'm losing touch with reality
It would be crazy
To choose this world over eternity

Call me crazy
You can call me crazy
Call me crazy

I have not been called to the wisdom of this world..
But to a God who is calling out to me..
And even though the world may think that
I'm losing touch with reality
It would be crazy, It would be crazy, It would be crazy
To choose this world over eternity

Isn't That crazy..
Call me crazy
You can call me crazy
Call me crazy
Lyrics from:

Sunday, October 31, 2010

What Are You Afraid Of?

If anyone has been paralyzed with fear, I have. I can give a long, 22 year old testimony as to how my life has been littered with doubts, fears and worries. They stem from a heart that, at times, is just not willing to trust the God of the universe with different areas of life. I have found that most of my fears are merely lies in disguise. These lies continually churn in my mind, exhausting me from a Christ- focused-life so much that they become ‘truth’ in my mind. This harvests a discontented spirit and quenches the joy of knowing Jesus as both my Lord and Savior.

I have learned that the only hope I have in stopping the hostility of these lies is to combat them immediately with God’s Word; the Truth. I encourage you to do the same; this morning I wrote out some current fears as well as thoughts that have pinned me down in the past. My ammunition has been a few of these scriptures that address the topic. Some of the verses are merely just the tip of the iceberg in revealing a Biblical man or woman’s life who are slaves to a similar fear that you may be facing. A good place to begin finding your amo, is a word search of a particular word either in the back of your Bible or I use or Whatever you do, don’t just stop at the verse, dig deeper and read it in context please! God’s Word is meant to be in its entirety. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal what the text says and you’ll discover that Truth exposes the lies in disguise. I would even go as far to write it down---and remind you on the days you find yourself locked to a ball and chain of a particular fear.

Additionally, you could ask godly friends, parents, or your pastor to give you some ideas of passages dealing with the fear. If you feel like a verse is not “hitting the spot” sometimes all you need to do is to meditate simply on God’s character. In college, I was blessed to attend a Bible study lead by a beautiful, God-fearing woman who taught us how to simply meditate on who God is. My absolute favorite hymn is “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.” Although it’s not scripture persay, the lyrics could not be any better!

“Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will turn strangely dim in the light of His glory and grace.”

It’s amazing how focusing on how BIG God is in comparison to your fear, immediately destroys it and you’re able to glorify God instead of worrying about it.

One more suggestion, if you’re visual person like me, I sometimes need to see things in order for it to really sink in. I created this little “Sticky-Note-Prayer Poster” where I have the verse Philippians 4:6-7 written out at the top. Then I wrote down specific prayer requests, fears, worries, and temptations that are constantly on my mind on sticky notes. I created the rule that I can take the sticky note down and pray about it or leave it up there---otherwise my thoughts shouldn’t be trying to figure it out. Some days it works and other days I still struggle, but again, it’s a visual that I can tell myself “It’s up there! Leave it alone!” Or I am just reminded of what the verse says, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in EVERYTHING, by prayer and petition, with THANKSGIVING, present your request to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Those words are enough to knock-out any fear!

I fear pain

Job 5:18
"For He inflicts pain, and gives relief; He wounds, and His hands also heal.

Revelation 21:3b-4
"Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away."

John 16:33
"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."

Romans 8:35
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

I fear change

Psalm 46:2-5
1 God is our refuge and strength, A very present help in trouble. 2 Therefore we will not R1397 fear, though the R1398 earth should change And though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea; F4113 Though its waters R1400 roar and foam, Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. Selah. F412 4 There is a river R1401 whose streams make glad the city of God, The holy dwelling places of the Most High. 5 God is in R1404 the midst of her, she will not be moved; God will help her when morning dawns.

I fear fat and an undesirable appearance

Matthew 6:27-34

27Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his lifeF30 ?
28"And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. 33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

1 Samuel 16:6-7
6 When they arrived, Samuel saw Eliab and thought, "Surely the LORD's anointed stands here before the LORD." 7 But the LORD said to Samuel, "Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."

Psalm 45:11 “The king is enthralled with your beauty.”

1 Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, 2 when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. 3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 5 For this is the way the holy women of the past who put their hope in God used to make themselves beautiful.

I fear sickness

John 11-The Death of Lazarus: Christ is glorified in the sickness of him (4)

Proverbs 18:14
A man's spirit sustains him in sickness, but a crushed spirit who can bear?

I fear not knowing how to respond to others

Psalm 37
1 [a] Do not fret because of evil men
or be envious of those who do wrong;
2 for like the grass they will soon wither,
like green plants they will soon die away.
3 Trust in the LORD and do good;
dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.
4 Delight yourself in the LORD
and he will give you the desires of your heart.
5 Commit your way to the LORD;
trust in him and he will do this:
6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn,
the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.
7 Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
do not fret when men succeed in their ways,
when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Mark 13:10-11
10And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit.
Luke 12:1-12—Please read in context, you will understand when you get to it 
It’s both “Warnings and Encouragements” so take into consideration both the warning and the encouragement from it! Especially verse 12

I fear not listening/knowing His will

(see parts of Psalm 37—multi-purpose verse!)

Psalm 16

I fear disappointment

This is what the Sovereign LORD says:
"See, I will beckon to the Gentiles,
I will lift up my banner to the peoples;
they will bring your sons in their arms
and carry your daughters on their shoulders.
23 Kings will be your foster fathers,
and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground;
they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the LORD;
those who hope in me will not be disappointed."

I fear being alone

Psalm 25:15-17
15 My eyes are ever on the LORD,
for only he will release my feet from the snare.
16 Turn to me and be gracious to me,
for I am lonely and afflicted.
17 The troubles of my heart have multiplied;
free me from my anguish.
Genesis 28:15
“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you."
Deuteronomy 31:6
“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you."

I fear forgetfulness

Psalm 105:7-9
7 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He remembers his covenant forever,
the word he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant he made with Abraham,
the oath he swore to Isaac.
Psalm 111:3-5
3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds,
and his righteousness endures forever.
4 He has caused his wonders to be remembered;
the LORD is gracious and compassionate.
5 He provides food for those who fear him;
he remembers his covenant forever.

I fear making mistakes

Deuteronomy 32:4
He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.

2 Samuel 22:33
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.

Psalm 37:23-24
23 If the LORD delights in a man's way,
he makes his steps firm;
24 though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the LORD upholds him with his hand.

I fear not being good enough

Colossians 3:1-17
1Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. 2Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. 3For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ, who is your[a] life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

12Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

I even fear the act of fear or lack of confidence

Moses and the Burning Bush-Exodus

Proverbs 19:23
The fear of the LORD leads to life: Then one rests content, untouched by trouble.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A New Creation

I was running yesterday in a pretty residential area and I glanced up to see this little girl on pink roller skates rolling down the sidewalk. She was just itty bitty! While she was skating away from me, she started moving her arms in dancing motions and I had to keep myself from giggling out-loud because I do believe I just had snapshot of myself around her age. My mind drifted to this time of year with Halloween coming up and I thought of all of the ridiculous costumes I managed to conjure up! One of them incorporated these roller skates but of course, we live in the country so they weren’t going to work real well on the gravel roads or in the car to get to our neighbor’s house a mile away. I was anything from a farmer, to a gymnast, to a box of crayons and my favorite, a professional dog trainer. Yup. I was determined at an early age that when I grew up I would be a professional dog trainer. I know, I know you’re going to ask “Joni, just how does one dress up to be a professional dog trainer for Halloween?” Easy peasy! Just find an old neon-colored-billed Sinclair gas station cap; cross out Sinclair and write “Dog Trainer” with a permanent marker; put one of those wolf t-shirts you could get in Branson, MO on, along with some jeans and a pair of cowboy boots. Oh and if you’re like me, and can’t bring your 150 lb dog in the car to go Trick or Treating, just grab the leash instead. HA. Yes—there are many days that I ask myself “How on earth did I go out in public like that?” The same way I did when I wore this nerd costume pictured. I guess I may fit this profile a little closer than the dog trainer since I do consider myself a nerd but in all seriousness, I believe I have managed to wear the crazy costumes for Homecoming, Halloween and Kanakuk Kamps because for one night, I got be different. I truly think that that is what 90% of the population who participate in Halloween want to get from the holiday. Another 9% want the chocolate, and the 1 % are the crazy people who just want to be scary and freak people out—which is just wrong!

Think about it---putting on a costume sometimes gives us the ability to say and do things that we normally would not do because the fear of what people may think when they see us. When we dress up. somehow we get this almost ‘fearless’ and ‘freeing’ attitude and we become alive in that particular character. It’s just like acting in any school play or musical—playing the part of someone different than ourselves allows us to actually have the confidence to do and say things we normally wouldn’t say. Psychologically, I believe we all have this somewhat deep desire to be someone different because of a discontentment with who we are. In some ways this can be bad because of course we would never want to compare ourselves and covet the life of another but I also see it in the light of a passage in 2 Corinthians that being transformed into another, more permanent ‘costume’ or ‘creation’ as being really good.
“16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. R16 The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 18 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; 19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling R17 the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:16-21 ESV

I do realize that when you are a new creation in Christ, you are not just merely putting on a costume, and that it is really a change in who you are because of entrusting your life with Christ and allowing the Holy Spirit to come into your life---but the transformation that should take place inside is only bound to bear witness in your physical appearance as well. This does not come in the form of Christian t-shirts, purity rings and cross necklaces, but rather in living with that same fearless-spirit or that freedom of being someone different because of Christ in your life. Do you truly believe that Christ has set you free from whatever sinful person you were before you encountered him? Do you realize that we have just been transformed into a new creation? This new creation relates to a passage in Romans 6 that describes us being buried with Christ and raised with him in order that we may have a ‘newness of life.’ I know we have Halloween on the brain so please don’t think of the zombie-like raising from the dead but think of someone actually dying and then just waking up, getting up fully alive! And it’s because of the power of the Holy Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, that we too can experience the power of living a different life than the sinful one all of mankind is born into. Do you understand how awesome that is? We don’t have to be ‘ourselves’ we can be someone totally different; different in the sense of ridding ourselves from the destructive behaviors of sin and freedom to live as children of God! We are free of guilt, free of regret, free of bondage to the world’s definition of who you are and more importantly, free from death! Now THAT is a holiday-worthy celebration! It’s ok to have fun and dress up once in a while; just remember that if you have accepted Christ, you are a new creation! Ha! I must say it’s a bit scary how legit I look as a nerd—almost more natural than the roller skating gymnast or the professional dog-trainer!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Classic Commandments

Image from:

It is funny how the older I get, the more I enjoy things from the past; for example, I love watching older movies, specifically musicals like Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, The Sound of Music or The Wizard of Oz (can you tell I grew up in a musical home?). Their stories are timeless and they really draw you into the plot as if you’re one of the characters. I feel like anyone can relate to one of the characters and of course, it always ends ‘Happily Ever After.” The other day I was thinking about the characters on the Wizard of Oz and some parallels that can be drawn between the Tin Man, Dorothy, the Scarecrow and the Lion and a couple “classic” verses in the Bible regarding a commandment given. This was not just any commandment, but one that Jesus said was “The Greatest Commandment.” It was originally stated way back in Deuteronomy 6 to the Israelites. A little background to preface the verse is that Moses is sharing the Ten Commandments to the Israelites (Deut. 5). He finishes with the ten main commandments and goes into a portion of his “sermon” on “The Greatest Commandment.” He preps the verse in 37 with the reasoning behind this commandment; that it is what God has commanded so that they may fear the Lord and that they may all live long lives (vs. 1-2). Moses also warns the people to be careful and hopes for the people to multiply greatly in the land that God has promised them. He uses the word “Shema” meaning—“Hear oh Israel,” or “Listen up—this is important!” God alone is Lord—there are no other gods—this concept is firmly spoken and repeated and followed by our classic commandment, (6:5) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength. (6) And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.” Verse six “on your heart” refers to a demand for a heart that totally loves the Lord” (ESV commentary). Following this verse, Moses goes on in chapter 7 describing how God feels about Israel:

7:6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest people, but it was because the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt….Know therefore, that the LORD your God is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and steadfast love with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations and repays to their face those who hates him. He will repay him to his face. You shall therefore be careful to do the commandment and the statues and the rules that I command you today.”


If I were to leave out that last portion of scripture and just plop the verse “Love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your strength,” I think you would react somewhat like, “Ah. Ok, I will do my best.” But when you put it into the context of that whole passage, God reveals WHY we should obey the commandment—not just because the Israelites will multiply or inherit the promise land, but because WHO God is! I love how he describes Israel as his “treasured possession,” and his reasoning behind choosing Israel was not because of anything they had done but because he wanted to save them from slavery. He describes himself as a “faithful God who keeps his covenant and steadfast love with those that love him and keep his commandments.” Interestingly enough, this commandment cycles its way back when Jesus is speaking to the Sadducees, Pharisees and his disciples in Matthew about the “Greatest Commandment.”

“34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:34-40

After reading this verse, you may have a ‘deer in the headlights’ look and feel inadequate. Keeping with our parallel of the Wizard of Oz, you may feel a lot like the characters from Wizard Oz in the sense that you don’t feel like you have the heart, the soul, the mind (or the strength) to love the Lord. In fact, you may not even totally understand what these words even mean. Well let’s dissect these two verses a bit and try and get a better idea of what each component is about:

Love-In this passage, the translated Greek word “Agapao.” It is a verb that means “of persons-to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly,” The King James Version uses the word “Beloved.” Knowing this definition, it somewhat sets-the-stage for what we are to do to welcome and love God dearly.

Lord-This word is translated to “Kurios”-“he to whom a person or thing belongs, about which he was power of deciding; master, lord-a possessor and disposer of a thing; the owner; one who has control of the person, the master; in the state: the sovereign, prince, chief, the Roman emperor; is a title of honour expressive of respect and reverence, with which servants greet their master; this title is given to: God, the Messiah.” Putting it with the verb Agapao—we are to welcome, entertain, to be fond of and love dearly the person we belong to; our master.”

Heart-Defined as “kardioa”- “organ in the animal body which is the centre of the circulation of the blood, and hence was regarded as the seat of physical life. Denotes the centre of all physical and spiritual life; the vigor and sense of physical life; the centre and seat of spiritual life (1) the soul or mind, as it is the fountain and seat of the thoughts, passions, desires, appetites, affections, purposes, endeavors; (2) of understanding, the faculty and seat of the intelligence; (3) of the will and character; (4) of the soul so far as it is affected and stirred in a bad way or good, or of the soul as the seat of the sensibilities, affections, emotions, desires, appetites, passions; of the middle or central or inmost part of anything, even though inanimate.”

Now, the soul is often confused with the heart. What do you think the difference between heart and soul is? I asked a couple friends of mine this question; one of them said that “soul” refers to personality, humanity while “heart” refers to what is redeemed by Christ, can represent emotions. Another friend of mine pointed me in the direction of Aristotle’s tri-partite soul which goes into a lot of detail that my sweet little mind cannot totally understand (HA!) But, from what I do understand is that Aristotle believed that the soul was the very “essence” of a person and the intellectual part of the human soul is indeed eternal and seperable from the body. The whole “tri-partite” aspect refers to technical, prudential and theoretical. To be completely honest with you, I feel like until someone who thinks alone these same wavelengths stoops down and explains it to me, I would dare to say that in relation to our analogy, my pitiful attempts to understanding this would compare to the spinning of the Twister from the Wizard of Oz! HEHE! From what I have gathered, Aristotle’s definition of the soul is closely related to the Christian’s definition (please correct me all you thinkers before God strikes me please!  ) What is interesting to note is that scripture does separate the heart from the soul:

Deuteronomy 4:29 : But from there you will seek the LORD your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 30:2,3: and(A) return to the LORD your God, you and your children, and obey his voice in all that I command you today, with all your heart and with all your soul,

Jeremiah 24:7: 7(A) I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD,(B) and they shall be my people(C) and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

Ok, ok, I know I am beginning to become confused as well so let’s peek at some commentary from the English Standard Version Study Bible on Deuteronomy 6:5

“That the Lord is alone is Israel’s God leads to the demand for Israel’s exclusive and total devotion to him. Heart…soul…might. All Israelites in their total being are to love the Lord; “ this is the great and first commandment (Matt. 22:38). In Matt. 22:37, Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27, Jesus includes “mind.” In early Hebrew, “heart” included what we call the “mind” Might includes energy and ability.”

From Deuteronomy 30:1-2

“The context is exile, following from 29:28. The word for mind (Hb. Lebab) can also be rendered “heart” (see 6:5). The verse anticipates that God’s words (all these things) will enter the exiles’ hearts, leading them to return to God, or repent which means to change their thinking and behavior completely. All your heart and with all your soul.”

Commentary from 30:6 uses the analogy and Jewish custom of circumcision by saying “ This is a key promise in Deuteronomy, looking forward to genuine covenant participation (see Jer. 31:33; Ezek 36:26-27; Rom 2:25; Col 2:11) so that you will love. God’s changing of the heart enables obedience.

Is it beginning to make sense? There is no recipe for which part of you needs to love God—bottom line is the fact that it has to be ALL of you! I do encourage you though to seek out the deeper meanings of these passages because I feel like the more you look into it, the more you are able to recognize what it looks like in your life. One more parallel to the Wizard of Oz is recognizing that the characters traveled the yellow brick road to see who? The Wizard! Now, I’m not all about sorcery and magic fluff but you have to admit, it’s pretty cool that they go to a Wizard to get a “heart”; a “soul” (we’ll say Dorothy because she’s wanting to go home---get it?! HA! See how great this analogy is!); a “mind” and “strength.” Similarly, we must get these “things” from God. It was God’s word entering the hearts of the Israelites that led them to return to Him with everything their entirety. Have you done that? Have you recognized that you have been separated from God because of sin—not just because you told a lie once but that you are honestly not good from the time you’re born? Have you recognized the sin in your life as a means of separation from God and fulfilling your life’s purpose of being in a relationship with the God of the universe?

We have the ability to have a relationship; to love God with our entire being because of what Jesus Christ did on the cross. You cannot save a part of yourself and give some to God—it has to be everything—just like the characters from the Wizard of Oz each received what they needed—including Dorothy going back to Kansas. Do you get it? Seriously, we were created to obey this commandment---nothing else in this life matters except obedience to this one commandment (and the others fall into line after it). It’s not a matter of “willing yourself” to it; it’s the obedience of recognizing the commandment God has spoken into your heart and following through by accepting his Son into your life as Lord and Savior. So often we as Christians get caught up in “Well, I accepted Jesus and I get so confused on everything that life throws at me, how do I make sense of it all?” Write this commandment on your heart and ask yourself in EVERY situation, “Am I loving God with all of my heart, soul, mind and strength?”