Monday, February 21, 2011

Just Do Something!

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Have you found yourself combing the pages or skimming the index in the back of the Bible for a topic relating to your ‘big decision,’ you’re currently facing? I find myself doing this from time to time. It’s not bad that we are going to God’s Word to look for direction on things we don’t know but have you ever thought that the answer may not be spelled-out word for word in the Bible but rather the answer lies in the transformation of one’s mindset and hear? I was visiting the other morning with a middle-aged man about my generation and my season of life. He spoke of his desire to influence my age group through mentoring and serving the body of believers by dispelling some underlying pressures that are often applied to young adults. These pressures involve making the right decisions on careers, schooling, marriage and relationships. In general, he said something along the lines of this:
“ It’s ok if you don’t ‘have it all together,’ if you end up going to school and discovering you don’t like what you’re doing, it’s ok that you spent the money because now you know you’re not going to go that direction: move forward and find where your passion truly lies. And if you happen to meet someone who is seeking the Lord while you’re seeking the Lord and you feel that you are supposed to be together: go for it—don’t sit there hemming and hawing over ‘Is this the one?’ Of course you need to be wise in the way you pursue relationships but we so often put so much pressure on making decisions that we waste precious time on something the Lord desires for us to step out in faith on. If I would have sought that or was encouraged to pursue my gifting at that age, who knows where I would be now: but regardless of what happened, I am where I am and the Lord is using me. I don’t regret the decisions I made, but I do wish that the church would encourage young adults to ‘Just Do Something’.” (Just Do Something is the name of a book he recommended me to read!)
Wise words? I agree! What is interesting, I have felt this pressure lifted in my own life, over the past few months. I feel like the Lord has been transforming my ideas and concepts of what ‘pursuing God’s will for my life’ and what it looks like. The transformation has not been a matter of revelation in some miraculous sign or wonder, but rather learning about WHO God is and living in the light of knowing Him more. There’s a passage in Ecclesiastes that Solomon wrote on the topic of the “Purpose of Life.” The entire book is somewhat depressing is it not? Ha, he talks about how meaningless pursuing pleasures and desires are much like chasing the wind; but at the end of the book, his remark is this :
“Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of man.”
Notice the wisest man to ever live did not say, “Make sure you comb the Bible as carefully as possible to find the answer to who you’re supposed to marry, where you’re supposed to live, what you’re supposed to do or if you’re supposed to be a full-time missionary in Antarctica (thank heavens he didn’t say that! Eeek! South Dakota is cold enough thank you very much!). He said that we are to “fear God and keep his commandments.” That’s your purpose! That’s your will! Fear God. I know, you’re rolling your eyes—I can see it, but I’m serious! Shoot me your earth-shattering question and I will say this: Fear God and keep his commands. Why? Why does it have to feel like my answer to your question is another question? Because it is not supposed to be complicated! God desires to be sovereign in control: yes he does give us an element of choice within his sovereignty but we need to understand He will accomplish Another verse instructs on this topic in a similar fashion. It’s found in Philippians 4 verse 8 which states:
“8 Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
So simple, yet so difficult to get through our thick heads! Try not to get so hung up on “What do I do about this? Where do I go? Who am I?” (I am getting a headache just thinking about it!) The answer is not God’s revelation: IT’S HIM. It’s Him. Seek to know your creator and He will reveal to his creation the who’s, what’s and why’s that you’re facing. When in doubt, focus on whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.” Start there. Fear God and follow what his word says.
I am a big fan of this song by the band “Deluge,” and writer Jonathan Stockstill, called “Open Up the Skys,” here are the lyrics. It reminds you of how we should pray and consult the Lord on matters: not seeking blessings or answers but rather seeking HIM.

“Our beloved Father please come down and meet us
We are waiting on Your touch
Open up the heavens, shower down Your presence
We respond to Your great love

We won't be satisfied with anything ordinary
We won't be satisfied at all

Open up the sky, fall down like rain
We don't want blessings, we want You
Open up the sky, fall down like fire,
We don't want anything but You

verse 2
Our beloved Jesus we just want to see You
in the glory of Your light
Earthly things don't matter
They just fade and shatter
When we're touched by love divine

Open up the sky, fall down like rain
We don't want blessings, we want You
Open up the sky, fall down like fire,
We don't want anything but You

Here we go lets go to the throne
The place that we belong Right into His arms.”
Lyrics from:

Thursday, February 17, 2011

But You Remain

Think of everything that changes from day-to-day in your world: what you eat, what you wear, gas prices, daily routines and routes; your work environment, your MOOD (Don't you dare deny it! We all have a moody gene in us--some of us express it more than others--just sayin); your overall health, your plans and on, and on! Change is inevitable and for those of us that like things to remain constant---it can be a rough world to live in! Everyday I feel like I am having to surrender my natural tendency to desire things to be the same or within a realm of control. There's a verse in Hebrews that stood out to me this morning, let's read it together:

"And, You, Lord, laid the foundation of the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end." Hebrews 1: 10-12

The passage prior to these verses is addressing the supremacy of Christ. I was originally reading through Colossians 1 and then cross referenced to this passage and found a similar theme of defining Christ's role in creation and His supremacy. We often see Christ as coming in around the Christmas story, when in reality, Christ laid the foundation of the earth! He was there with Adam and Eve...and before! This passage of scripture also addresses Christ supremacy over angels. I feel like we put angels on a to tum pole within our society as supreme beings when God created them to serve us--to serve the Church and worship Him (vs. 7,14). But that's another topic to discuss--let's get back to this passage.

So the author or Hebrews uses the analogy of the changing of a garment in comparison to the heavens. Do you have a favorite pair of jeans? A favorite baseball cap? Don't you just wish the fabric fibers would just hang-on for a little longer? I have jeans and running clothes that I have had for years -that should probably be thrown away a while ago (this is not an excuse for you to tell me to get rid of them--haha, "Perfect timing to tell Joni she really does need to get rid of those jeans!) Now, the passage says that the heavens are like garments that become worn-out. Archaeologists could testify that this world is pretty old and there are some things on this earth that have been around forever! My mind immediately goes to those big, beautiful redwood trees in California. I LOVE pictures of these trees: they're massive and just tower over people. These trees have been around what seems like forever---but this passage says that they too, will wear-out.

Well gracious! What does that mean for those of us who struggle with change? Are we always going to have a furrowed-brow of fear or chronic crankiness because things are always changing? If you choose to focus on things that are constantly changing or will eventually change--yes but if you choose to focus on the one thing that remains, your brow can relax a little. I am not belittling your fears of change, in fact, if anyone understands the fears that come with change, it's me! But we can take a passage like this one and meditate on it; accepting the message and react by praising God for NOT changing! Praise God that he has had the salvation of man in His plan since the beginning of time. It was not a surprise to him when man fell into sin. I find so much comfort in that! I could be stripped of everything like Job and still have all that I need in Christ clinging to his constant presence. So don't panic-- it's ok if your garments wear out, if your route changes on your way to work, even if friendships come and go--continue to keep your focus on the one who will remain!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Worshipful Communication

The modern day church enjoys worship music. Think about how worship music is not only used within the four walls of your church but how it has been carried-out into another sector of the music industry. Worship leaders now lead services and actually go on tour. Worship music available to listen to on the radio, on CDs, Itunes, and Pandora (which in fact, I am listening to right now). It’s great! It’s wonderful: just wonderful that worship music is at the tips of our fingers whenever we need to reconnect with the LORD, be encouraged by a set of lyrics, or simply enjoy listening to some music. I am a Christian music-junky. I grew up with a mother as a Choir director and voice teacher in both school and church so since birth I have head thousands of songs, mostly traditional hymn, worship or classical. I listen to it a lot and have music constantly playing---except when I am praying, I shut it off otherwise I get distracted. My friends will ask “ What’s the title of this song?” or “Who sings this?” and more than likely I will have an answer shortly thereafter or I will squirm like crazy until I know it. Ha. “My name is Joni and I am addicted to worship music (Hi Joni).”

With all that being said, there is a side of singing songs about God that I feel like we’re still missing. I say this because after reading this passage in Colossians, I thought about the context of the words “psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit,” and there’s a different feel to it than just your average worship song. Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to minimize the importance of our praise and worship choruses that we currently sing---but do you ever sing of God’s faithfulness to one another? Or admonish one another with all wisdom through song? Read the passage first and allow me to explain this better.

“12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. 15 Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. 16 Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.” Colossians 3:12-16 ESV

Prior to verse 12, Paul addresses the topic of “Living as Those Made Alive in Christ,” challenging the church to recognize that they are alive in Christ and to rid themselves of their fleshly desires and nature. He says just before verse 12 that we are “being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator,” And that there is now “neither Jew nor Gentile.” Therefore….clothe yourself with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Ok, so you understand as a Christ-follower, you are God’s chosen people---made holy and dearly loved. Other things we do because we have been made alive in Christ is (1) bear with each other (2) forgive one another (3) put on love and (4) let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts. The last portion says that we are to (1) teach, and (2) admonish. I love looking up new words so I went ahead and found the definition for the word admonish and found that this verb means “ to caution, advise, or counsel against something. to reprove or scold, especially in a mild and good-willed manner: The teacher admonished him about excessive noise. to urge to a duty; remind: to admonish them about their obligations.”

That definition makes sense with the context of the verse doesn’t it? How do you teach someone? How do you correct someone when they say something wrong or give advice? The way I teach is usually through explaining, with an eventual limit on patience if the person is not listening or understanding me. If I am correcting someone, it’s usually ridden with pride or I may avoid conflict all together. The avenues to teach and admonish in this passage however seem a little different than the ways we normally teach and admonish. The verse calls us to use avenues through “psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts.”

Now, you may be asking yourself: “Self, are we supposed to take this literally? Am I really supposed to sing at someone when I am telling them something or when I am telling them what they need to do differently?” HA! Wouldn’t that be fun to have your life as a musical where you just break-out into song at random times? I don’t think we need to carry it to that extreme, but yes, it would be fun. No, I think that what Paul is getting at is that the means that we communicate with one another should be done in such a way that we are worshipful: worshipping God as we communicate with one another. When we simply talk to someone or command someone to do something, it often has a domineering-element to it: “You are doing this wrong.” Or “This is how you need to do this.” Instead of a loving, compassionate, song-like encouragement and urgency from the heart. Are songs not a wonderful gift from God? In the Old Testament and just history in general, song has been a means of teaching one another and telling a story. We often remember better through song. The Psalmists wrote hundreds of songs praising and worshipping God. This verse from Isaiah talks about a singing that will take place in the future (Isaiah 33:20): 20 The LORD will save me, and we will sing with stringed instruments all the days of our lives in the temple of the LORD.

I know you may be thinking, “Well it makes sense to sing to the Lord and worship but singing to one another is different and kind of weird.” I understand, and I completely see your perspective on that and I recognize that our praise and worship is reserved for the LORD and He alone; but do you see how we communicate with one another should have a sense of ‘sing-ability,’ to it. We should sing from a grateful heart and sing from a heart overflowing with love for our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we communicate with one another, we should remind one another through song or in a melody-like manner which stems from the bottom of our hearts with convictions from the Spirit: not from a commanding, self-righteous dominance. There is a difference in our modern-day worship and this singing that is described. It is my hope that God transforms our hearts in such a way that we teach and admonish one another in worshipful communication.