Archive for July, 2007

I woke up very tired this morning…too short a night that followed a week of very long days and short nights. Perfect prescription for crankiness. But God is greater and I am thankful.

I woke up with a lightness in my heart this morning. I am singing to the Lord and finding nuggets of wonder in His Word. I haven’t felt this lightness of heart in a long, long time.

So my mind wants to know “what changed?” “what did I do that made the difference?” Was it our study in Philippians (the “book of joy”)? We made a hard decision last night, but was it having the decision behind us that brought a certainty (in the midst of uncertainty) that lightened my heart? Was it a major new project that I’ve committed to that has given me joyful energy this morning?

I think the most accurate answer to the question “What did I do that made the difference?” is that I did very, very little. God is sovereign and in His sovereignty, He said “now.” He said “enough” to the heaviness and “now” to the joy. Yes, I obediently and to the best of my limited ability put myself in a place where He could bless me — I continued to read, pray, join with other believers, worship, journal and study — but I have been doing those things all along with seemingly little impact or result. But God.

In that last paragraph is one of the biggest lies the enemy feeds us — “with seemingly little impact or result.” Last week as Phil & I talked about this decision we needed to make I said (clearly speaking through the Holy Spirit because my heart was discouraged at the time) “We are fools if we don’t believe in our hearts that God is working behind the scenes in this and has or is preparing a perfect answer for us.” Those little actions that seemingly have no impact have impact in the spiritual world — impact that we can’t always see or know. But they have impact! It just takes God’s timing for us to see the result.

Yep, I know this is motherhood, but it’ motherhood that I need to be reminded of over and over again. That God is moving on my (and your) behalf and that my prayers and my obedience have impact even when when I don’t see it.

Because one day I woke up with a lightness of heart. Will it stay light or will the first three phone calls snuff it out? I don’t know, but I do know that it’s lighter than it’s been and I trust that it’ll be lighter still as I continue “keeping on” in Christ.

Grace and peace! Coming to a heart near you…

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A small group of us are studying the book of Philippians. Last night we did chapter 1. So much good stuff, I had to blog a little about it. Today I’ll share briefly about Paul’s greeting. Tomorrow (or at least some day soon), I’ll share about “abounding in love.”

Paul’s greeting in the letter is twofold — a salutation and a blessing. The blessing is “grace and peace to you.” Pretty simple. But we looked at the words.

Grace — The word for grace is “charis” which means not just the unmerited favor we receive from God, but also it’s “reflection in [our] life” according to Strong’s Greek Dictionary. I don’t often think of that when I think of grace. When I pray “grace,” I’m not just praying for God’s favor to be shown to someone (or myself), I’m also praying for the reflection of that grace — the outward expression of it in our lives. That’s pretty cool! It’s like the prayer is doing double-duty or has double power. I’m not sure why, but this has me pretty jazzed.

Peace — Not the absence of conflict, but a restoration to oneness, quietness and rest. That sounds a whole lot more like a spiritual thing to me than a relational thing. My spirit so often needs to be restored to oneness with God, to experience quietness and rest in the midst of a crazy world. I’m reminded of the spiritual formation “exercises” or practices that I’ve largely allowed to fall by the wayside.

Paul blessed the Philippians with grace and peace at a time when they were experiencing persecution — being falsely accused, arrested and thrown in prison. He was saying “may your soul be at rest with the Father and your life be a reflection of His grace in your life.” Wow! all that in just 3 words — “grace and peace.”

Grace and peace, friends.

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Today God’s been whispering to me …how many times have I prayed …”make me more like Jesus”…”I want to know You more, Lord”…how could that possibly happen without difficult times in which I can reveal God’s character and qualities? …how could that possibly happen without people treating me in such a way that I must learn, practice and demonstrate patience and forgiveness? …how could that possible happen without facing uncertainty and confusion so that God can show me His faithfulness?

Lord, it’s hard. I don’t want to practice those things. Help me to rejoice in You. Help me to choose to rejoice in You.

Hard things to hear (because I know I haven’t been revealing Christ as much as I’d like to be)…yet I love it when God whispers in my ear.

Thank You, Lord.

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While reading this morning, I was struck by the differences between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament and the God of today. Yes, I know…God is the same yesterday, today and forever. I know that. I believe that.

Yet even a surface read of the Bible reveals that He doesn’t always look and act the same way. I’m currently reading the Bible in three places. In John I’ve just read about have just seen Lazarus brought back to life. In Joshua I’ve just learned about the various parcels of land that were given to the different tribes. In Zephaniah I read a prophetic message of radical destruction delivered to the Baal worshipers in Judah. Those passages provide pretty different images of God. We know that Jesus wasn’t anything like what the Jews of Israel were expecting in a Messiah.

It makes me wonder what misconceptions we have about God because we only see what He’s doing in our generation. Just thinking about this a little makes makes a really strong case for studying Scripture (both Old and New Testaments) — so that we get a more well-rounded understanding of God. It also makes a strong case for checking out what God is doing in other areas of the globe and especially in churches outside our own. I’ve found that we get so “me” oriented in our own churches that we become blind to what God is doing outside our church.

It’s so easy to begin to believe that our church does it best! Every pastor (and probably every committed church member) I’ve known has been bipolar in their presentation of this message — every pastor specifically conveys both that there are many churches in their area and different churches are the best choices for different people AND that their church is the best. Perhaps that’s just a function of needing to believe that what we’re doing has value.

But I digress. I hope that everyone is in the church that God wants them to be in. But I also have great hope that everyone recognizes the value of other churches and I even secretly hope that occasionally people take a break from their church to see what God is doing in other churches. Because it helps us to see that God is more than what we see Him as in our own church. He’s doing more. He’s got more facets to His personality.

Has your image/perspective of God been challenged lately? If so, let me know. If not, take a walk on the wild side and visit a different kind of worship service sometime in the next few weeks. Ask God to reveal how He’s working in such a different environment. I bet you’ll be glad you did. Let me know!

Comment by dansdesk
I’m going to be posting a past sermon soon called “God in a box.” It is very similar to what you are talking about. Good stuff!
Thursday July 19, 2007 – 04:22pm (EDT)

Response by Sandyhov
I’m looking forward to it.
Monday July 23, 2007 – 11:25pm (EDT)

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Now you might read this title and think I’m going to write something really deep about being a Christian living in a world in which I’m a foreigner, waiting for a new and better Kingdom to come.

You’d be wrong.

I’m writing instead about living between the worlds of evangelicalism and pentecostalism. Yep, that’s me. I know I’m not alone. While attending grad school, there were a number of students that described themselves as “bapticostal” or some similar title. Many charismatics/pentecostals “live” incognito in evangelical churches. I’m not sure I’ve ever met an evangelical who’s lived incognito in a charismatic/pentecostal church, but there are probably some out there.

Phil & I prefer the title “empowered evangelicals” stolen from the title of Rich Nathan’s book. Great book. He finds a way to bring both sides together, avoiding extremes in all issues, but allowing for the Spirit to move freely and in power. (Well, maybe not as freely as some from a pentecostal background might prefer!) 🙂

We have often felt that God had called us to be “bridge people” – called to influence the opinion of our evangelical brethren toward charismaticism and vice versa. For much of our Christian life, we’ve “lived” as empowered evangelicals in evangelical churches. We often felt like we had to hide the “empowered” side of our walk with the Lord, at least until people knew us and trusted us…because we’re WAY more charismatic than our evangelical friends suspect. We’re currently living as empowered evangelicals in a church with strong pentecostal roots. We sometimes feel like we need to hide our evangelical leanings in the same way…because we’re way more evangelical than our pentecostal friends suspect.

You know, guys…God is way bigger than this. His “personality” is both evangelical and pentecostal. And He desires for His Church to be a reflection of Him. Can’t we all just get along?
I’m sure my tension in this area will come thru in these blogs. Feel free to add your comments.

Comment from dansdesk
You’ve certainly helped move me to a more balanced position. Thanks! I need to read that book!Dan
Thursday July 19, 2007 – 04:17pm (EDT)

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I’ve spent almost the last hour looking for a quote. It’s a really good quote, but I can’t find it. So I’m going to paraphrase it…”The best thing for a dull mind is to break up the routine.” Now that’s not original, The original was much more eloquent. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who said it, either. I’m guessing A.W. Tozer or C.S. Lewis. Oh well please pretend it’s eloquent and properly cited. (If anyone can find the real quote, I’d be much abliged to you if you were to pass the info on to me.)

Everyone…yes, EVERYONE, has a routine that provides structure to their lives. For some, the routine is easily recognizable and looks (from the outside) very constricting. For others, it may appear that there’s nothing but haphazardness about someone’s life…but upon close inspection, one will find a routine, even if it’s only the routine of sleeping and waking with an obvious eschewing of any routine in between. Even the eschewing of routine is a form of routine that provides structure to the person’s life.

I’ve been thinking a lot about routine lately because Phil has a new job and it’s messing with our routines. It’s a part time job — 20 hours a week — but different hours every week and at least so far it’s been constantly changing. We’re told that it will repeat, but in the 2 months he’s been there that’s not proven to be the case. This new non-routine has caused many of the things that have defined who we are as a couple no longer exist. I’m sure that sounds overstated, but it’s certainly how it feels. (I guess this is where I lecture myself on truth vs. perceptions — perception is NOT reality — truth is reality…but that’s a topic for another blog.) You see, as a couple, we had routines related to when we woke up, when we ate, when we worked, when we played and when we “talked about our day.” Now that’s all jumbled up.

Phil’s new job isn’t the only thing prompting these wonderings about routine. When my dad died, I felt as if all of my internal structures has been shattered. It both made sense and it made no sense. It made no sense because I hadn’t actually depended on Dad for anything over the past 20 years or more (except perhaps the occasional advice…which I usually didn’t follow anyway). Yet it made sense because something that had been truth for 51 years, suddenly, on the first day of my 52nd year of life was no longer true. My dad had existed, had been alive…now he isn’t. And truth isn’t supposed to change. And the internal structure that had existed because of that fact had been shattered. Weird.

So I’m meditating a bit on the subject of “routine.” Routine provides structure for our lives. Yet occasionally it must be jumbled up a bit to bring us out of the slumber it nurtures. A.W. Tozer recognized this when he wrote “Complacency is a deadly foe of all spiritual growth” (The Pursuit of God: p. 17).

Undoubtedly, God is a God of routine and structure. He created a world with day and night, high tide and low tide, summer and winter. Yet He recognizes our sinful tendency to not appreciate that which we have and to become self-absorbed when we’re not absorbed with something greater than ourselves. So He built into our lives seasons that jumble up the routines — seasons of mourning and seaons of joy, seasons of success and seasons of failure.

We like to pretend that we should always be at the top of our game, or at least nearing the top with the top just another step or two ahead of us. But that’s not consistent with Scripture — either the teaching or the experience documented in Scripture. “To everything there is a season” Ecclesiastes tells us. Part of “everything” is joy AND sadness, success AND failure.
Enough rambling! Suffice it to say that God has been jumbling my routines. From what I read in other blogs and from what I hear talking to others, I’m not alone. Here’s to God doing NEW things in our lives — yours and mine. May we all be open to them.

Comment by dansdesk
Good thoughts! I’m not saying this about you but I wonder how often God shakes up my routine because it’s a “bad” routine!
Thursday July 19, 2007 – 04:16pm (EDT)

Response by Sandyhov
I’m absolutely positive (for me, not you) that it’s sometimes shaken because it’s a “bad” routine. This current shaking is a prime example. There were many reasons for Phil taking the part-time job at the hospital, but part of it was that we just came to a point where after almost 20 years in business it was a bit unhealthy for Phil & I to be working together at Data Designs as we were. We needed more outside interaction. He needed to be around people more. Yes, God’s shaking is scary but good.
Monday July 30, 2007 – 09:21pm (EDT)

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