Thursday, September 11, 2008

in order to fully understand God's grace...

In order to fully understand God's grace, we must fully understand the sin nature from which we have been redeemed. We must absolutely embrace the fact that God has revealed himself to all of humanity through his creation.

We are fallen and sinful and saved by the grace of God. Anyone who has not received Christ is lost in sin. Many people live around us in respectable morality but have no relationship with Christ. It is our job, therefore, to live our lives wholly dedicated to God (Romans 12:1) as our spiritual act of worship. We must then follow God's command to "Go and make disciples" (Matt. 28:19). When will we stop rationalizing our inaction and begin to consider scriptures like Romans 1:18-25?

The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities-- his eternal power and divine nature-- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator- who is forever praised. Amen.

We have exchanged the glory of God for idols we have constructed, and these are getting in the way of the mission. Of course the world is pursuing idols. Why wouldn't they be? They're lost and seeking hope from all the wrong places. It is time for us to show them hope from the one in whom we hope.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Let all the earth be silent

At our church right now, our pastor is doing a series on Habakkuk-- not a very common topic of study in today's churches, I know, but a very needed look into the Old Testament. The series is entitled "Vision in the Midst of Famine." The series sparked in me a renewed interest in studying the book of Jeremiah. I haven't studied this book since high school, and I'm sure that at that time, I didn't read it properly, nor was I equipped enough to reflect on it adequately. I'm doing this study with a group of several other women. A part of my role is to search for cross-references to enhance our study. While examining Jeremiah 2, and God's discourse on Israel's reliance on idols, I referenced Habakkuk 2:18-20. I heard this passage anew when about 2 months ago, I listened to the message from Ravi Zacharias called "The Lostness of Man." I have referenced this message before because it is packed with close-hitting truths I wish I could fully embody and embrace in my life. But back to Habakkuk: Here is what the verse says:

“What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it,
Or an image, a teacher of falsehood?
For its maker trusts in his own handiwork
When he fashions speechless idols.
“Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’
To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’
And that is your teacher?
Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver,
And there is no breath at all inside it.
“But the LORD is in His holy temple.
Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

We are remiss in our treatment of God. We idolize life circumstances, friendships, possessions, and even money yet we expect that God will continue to pour out his blessings on us. But we are like our idols: dead and worthless. Israel worshipped idols by offering sacrifices to them. God calls US to BE a sacrifice unto him (Romans 12:1) as a spiritual act of worship. Worship isn't what we sing during church. Worship is what we DO when we're living life. We either ARE worshiping or we are not. We spend so much time praying, asking God: Do this, do that, help me with this, help my friend in this difficult time. But really what we SHOULD be doing is showing reverence to the Father with our life and trusting that God in His sovereignty is working out more details than we thought to remind Him of. Am I suggesting that we shouldn't pray and ask God for things? No. But what I am saying is that we ask for more than we should and have an over-inflated sense of entitlement in asking when we in fact do not align ourselves with whom we are called to be. And how might we begin to align ourselves with God's call? I think a good place to start is silence.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What's Wrong With the World

I've been listening lately, over and over, to the sermon by Ravi Zacharias entitled "The Lostness of Man." It is aired in two parts and can be found at a link I'll post at the bottom of this post.* The reason I've listened over and over is that I've been compelled by Dr. Zacharias' message to think seriously about how I view myself and my relation to the world. In Dr. Zacharias' presentation, a couple of statements made by philosopher G.K. Chesterton are highlighted. One of them hits me in the forehead every time I hear it:

(Some of the world's prominent thinkers were sent inquiries for the purpose of an article to appear in the NY Times called "What's Wrong With the World." Chesterton's letter to the editor was so short, I'm sure the editor had to read it and re-read it to know it was for real:)

Dear Sir,

I am.

G.K. Chesterton**

I have come to the conclusion that if we are honest with ourselves, we will agree with Chesterton. The following statement was made by Ghandi, and though he was a pagan, his statement bears consideration: "Be the change you wish to see in the world." In an age where many Christians look to the modern church or to the government to solve the moral issues in our country, we as Believers should do as Paul commends: "Wake oh Sleeper" (Eph. 5:14) and realize that we in fact are responsible for the world in which we live. I write this not as an accusation but as a challenge: What are we doing in our daily lives to bring unbelievers into the community of the church? What are we doing to hold the church together and uphold our fellow believers as we walk out the Grace we freely received? Rather than continue on in an attempt to bring some new query or thought to light, I'll stop as I am inadequate to the job. Instead, I implore you to give ear to Dr. Zacharias in his message "The Lostness of Man."



Monday, June 02, 2008


I teach students of many ability levels. This year, I have taught a couple students whose level of intelligence is actually too low to successfully learn what I'm supposed to teach them (they were simply placed incorrectly, which is a shame). Today as I was walking the halls, I was thinking about one of these students in particular, and I wondered: I think I would feel "Lost" all day long. How would my world be different if I were literally unable to process information in the way I currently do? How would my day be different if simple things were next to impossible? If I could, I would spend a day in this kid's shoes-- experience what it's like to be unable to understand simple instructions or to comprehend a paragraph's worth of knowledge in a text book-- I would probably spend the day wanting to cry from frustration. But I would appreciate the kid's needs more fully. I would probably be a better teacher.

My thoughts have a lot of free time in the afternoons at school-- I have hall duty every other day, and it was during such hall duty that I mulled over the above questions. Then I translated the thought another degree. I can't imagine what it is like to feel intellectually "lost"-- what would it be like to be spiritually Lost; obviously a predicament with mortal significance. How would my life be different: How would my day go if every concern and worry were mine to carry by myself? If I had to plan my life without Guidance? If I received seriously bad news or was told I was unacceptable in my professional or personal life? HOW would I even be able to stand? Could I put one foot in front of the other? I definitely would NOT want to spend a day in this person's shoes.

I am a very "mental" person by nature; it is very easy for me to process such ideas on an intellectual/surface level-- as if analyzing new data in a laboratory. However, my final questions is: If I internalize my SECOND question, HOW WOULD MY LIFE BE DIFFERENT?

"Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence." Eph. 3:8-12

"And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love hij, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be confrormed to the likeness of his Son.... What shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all-- how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us al things? ... Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: 'For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.'..." Rom. 8:28-39

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

What should be the Meaning (of life)?

A student at Georgia Tech asked the following question of Ravi Zaccharias: "You've identified loss of meaning as a problem; so... what should be the meaning?"

His answer (imperfectly transcribed):
"When you're dealing with meaning, I believe meanining needs four components to bring meaning to an individual life...we're living in a postmodernist time where people wonder what "meaning" really means. There are four components to finding meaning in life... (related to childhood) When you are in your years of childhood, the thing that keeps you going is... a sense of wonder about everything you see. But as you get older, you can no longer believe in all the fairy stories; as wonderful as they were, you know they were all figments of people's imaginations. ... In your 20's, the question of Truth becomes supreme, not whether this belief of mine or this experience of mine brings me a sense of wonder, but whether this experience of mine is also based in truth. Truthfulness becomes an important category... Truth in the metaphysical world {must be measured with some logical unit of measurement].... The you come into your 20's and 30's where your commitments are being made and your relationships are being developed, you're looking for love beyond romance, it is a love of relationships... . And finally, you're looking for the concept of security. How do I know that what I believe will ultimately stand the test of time; and is there a life beyond the grave.

What brings meaning is when you can combine a sense of wonder under girded by truth, experiencing the richness of love with the knowledge of security; those four components bring genuine meaning to life. The older you get, the more it takes to fill your heart with wonder; and only God is big enough to fill that heart. ... "

Hear the whole Q & A

Sunday, May 04, 2008

now to live the life....

if you're like me --- grew up in church, attended youth group, youth conferences, youth camp-- you probably know myriad praise choruses, some meaningful, some drivel. most were drivel.

i'm not one to support driveling praise choruses but i am caught by the subtle meaning of some that, at first glance, may not appear to be so full-bodied as say, the old hymns. one such song is called "Now to Live the Life" and it isn't very well known, as far as i can tell-- it wasn't widely published on 15644 different praise/worship CD's and definitely never made it onto any of those WOW CD's.

Many are the words we speak
Many are the songs we sing
Many kinds of offerings
But now to live the life

Many are the words we speak
Many are the songs we sing
Many kinds of offerings
But now to live the life

Help us live the life

All we want to do is bring you something real
Bring You something true

Precious are the words we speak
Precious are the songs we sing
Precious all these offerings
But now to live the life

Help us live the life

Now to go the extra mile
Now to turn the other cheek
And to serve You with a life
Let us share your fellowship
Even of your sufferings

Never let the passion die...

Now to live the life...

1 "Come, let us return to the LORD.
He has torn us to pieces
but he will heal us;
he has injured us
but he will bind up our wounds.

2 After two days he will revive us;
on the third day he will restore us,
that we may live in his presence.

3 Let us acknowledge the LORD;
let us press on to acknowledge him.
As surely as the sun rises,
he will appear;
he will come to us like the winter rains,
like the spring rains that water the earth."

4 "What can I do with you, Ephraim?
What can I do with you, Judah?
Your love is like the morning mist,
like the early dew that disappears.

5 Therefore I cut you in pieces with my prophets,
I killed you with the words of my mouth;
my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.

6 For I desire mercy, not sacrifice,
and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

7 Like Adam, they have broken the covenant—
they were unfaithful to me there.

8 Gilead is a city of wicked men,
stained with footprints of blood.

9 As marauders lie in ambush for a man,
so do bands of priests;
they murder on the road to Shechem,
committing shameful crimes.

10 I have seen a horrible thing
in the house of Israel.
There Ephraim is given to prostitution
and Israel is defiled.

11 "Also for you, Judah,
a harvest is appointed.
"Whenever I would restore the fortunes of my people,

Thursday, February 14, 2008


There is a fountain filled with blood drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.
Lose all their guilty stains, lose all their guilty stains;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood lose all their guilty stains.

The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.
Washed all my sins away, washed all my sins away;
And there have I, though vile as he, washed all my sins away.

The first two verses of W. Cowper's hymn have filled my head this past week and I have come to this conclusion: If I am to live on Mission daily, I must first embrace the depth and breadth of my own redemption. It is only in this realization that I will view others-- especially those who are clean, tidy, well-behaved "normal" people-- as my mission field.

The dying thief of course refers to the one who hung beside Jesus and asked for salvation, which Jesus granted. What must this thief have done to have received such a miserable punishment as crucifixion? Obviously he was a thief-- how many people's lives did he ruin? How many families did he devastate through his actions? What a horrid wretch! I'm not that bad-- I was a "good kid," I attended church growing up, gave my tithe, helped others in need, and even used my spiritual gifts... But what does the song say? "But there may I, though vile as he, wash all my sins away." I am depraved and broken, in need of grace every day-- I cannot take any credit for righteous behavior, because any of this behavior is a result of a righteousness that is not my own-- it is granted to me based not on my own virtue or even good fortune, but only through the perfect will and love of the Father-- because of God's supreme sacrifice I am cleansed in the Blood of the One whose sufferings offer redemption to the world.

Monday, February 11, 2008

who me?

I'm currently making my way through the New Testament, but I invariably find myself cross-referencing the Old Testament and tonight was no exception...

I really love reading the book of Jeremiah and my reading of I Corinthians 1 (specifically 26-31) brought me to chapter 9, verses 23-24. Jeremiah ch. 9 is one of several occasions in which God bemoans the ruined state of His people; and after 22 verses of outlining the specific mis-deeds of the Israelites and the subsequent punishment thereof, Jeremiah finally reveals this imperative:

"Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom
or the strong man boast of his strength
or the rich man boast of his riches;
But let him who boasts boast about this:
that he understands and knows me
that I am the Lord who exercises kindness
justice and righteousness on the earth,
for in these I delight."

Paul references this verse in I Corinthians 1:31. This chapter is Paul's opener to the believers at Corinth, and in it, he is encouraging them not to be discouraged by their lack of social prominence but in light of God's purpose to prevail. God intends to use what seems weak or foolish to accomplish his plan.

This past Sunday, we were encouraged through the sermon to be continuously and thoroughly on mission for God-- to allow our daily walk with God (which likely requires first DEVELOPING a daily relationship with Jesus) to mold every other aspect of our lives. The result being that through our witness, we will show others the Way and be vessels for discipleship; in doing this, we will fulfill the "Great Commission." (Matt. 28: 18-20) But how many times have I written off this directive as someone else's job, or missed the mark entirely by being self-absorbed in my "personal relationship with Jesus"? When Jesus spoke to go into the world and make disciples, he was speaking to ME-- to all Believers, but we have mistreated this command. When Jesus spoke the Great Commission, He gave the Church a mission. And we are floundering-- we are in ruin, just as God's people in the time of Jeremiah. We are scattered and we lack vision, but we have a chance to change this: this begins in the heart of individuals and culminates in the collective. When Paul spoke to the Corinthians: "God chose the foolish things of the world to confound the wise," he was saying: so what if you have no confidence in yourselves? -- all the better for God to use you all-- to use ME-- for his Kingdom.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

a vocabulary lesson

Anyone who has known me for 30 minutes knows I slip uncommon words into conversation... I think it comes from having grown up with two parents who are certified word-nerds... Use of language is important to me, probably more important than it should be-- deep down, I am enthralled by our language. So...

Over the last three weeks I have been mulling over the word ORDAINED. the first idea this word evokes is "minister," as in "ordained minister." it may even call to mind the phrase "ordained as sons (daughters) of Christ" as employed by Paul in several of his letters to the scattered church. but what does it MEAN? Ordained means "called," or "appointed." but what lies beyond this simple definition?

Just as a wine connoisseur savors the subtle "textures" in the bouquet, I enjoy delving into the textures of words. So when I delve into ORDAINED, it doesn't just mean called or appointed. It evokes a sense of purpose and design. As in: I am ordained to be part of this body of believers and therefore, specific design and purpose to the calling to which I respond.

"Before you were formed, I knew you. before you were made, I predestined you..."
Jer. 1:1.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

get a job

Every year, I teach my students about "cohesion," the ability of a substance to adhere to another substance -- water on glass, for example. And for the vocabulary-impaired students, I always emphasize the "co" part of the word... co-captains, co-workers, etc. Paul refers to cohesion in Romans 12 when he instructs believers that we are all part of one body, all having different functions, and each of these functions being necessary and equal. Obviously within a body of believers there are those who are more prominent or well-known, but in God's perspective, all members of the body function in roles that are equally important. Any one job not being done fully or properly is a detriment to the body of believers.

So what is my job? What is my role or function that is essential to others? I think most of us share the role of simply creating a support network for one another; and how do we best accomplish this? Paul answers this throughout his letters. First of all, in Romans 12, he admonishes us that we are all given a gift which we should use fully and wisely. In Galatians 6, Paul calls us to "bear each other's burdens" which is often taken to mean something like "when someone is going through rough times, you need to be there for that person." True. However, this verse in context means something more like "in whatever your friend is struggling spiritually, be a support and accountability partner." I could make some kind of biology joke about the membranes that hold all a body's tissues and organs in place... or I could simply say that each and every one of us who belongs to a body of believers should perform two functions by default: exercise our gifts as God gives us opportunity, and maintain accountability among our friends.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Beautiful Feet

When I was a kid, from the time I was three (old enough to string together a sentence, but barely), Sandi Patti was my hero-- I used to hold onto the wooden handle of a jump rope in my grandmother's kitchen and belt out the lyrics to her songs. Sandi Patti did a kids' tape once-- back when it was either a tape or a record no CD player was available at that time-- and on the tape was a song called Beautiful Feet. I think there was a cute story to go with the song but all I can remember are the words to the chorus... Beautiful feet. Beautiful feet. Beautiful, beaauuuuttiffuulll feeeeeeet...

Romans 11: 14-16
How then can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: "How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news."

Isaiah 52:7.
How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news
who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation
who say to Zion, "Your God reigns."