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Archive for April, 2008

Sometimes God arranges what we’re reading to have doubled impact.

Yesterday I read in Genesis about Noah and the flood.

Today I read the lineage of Jesus in Luke.

The last line “Adam was the son of God” always strikes me. Wow! To be a son of God! I’m a daughter of Pat Parks and Leona Vinck. I have a grandmother who loved the Lord, but little other spiritual heritage that I’m aware of. Adam was the son of God.

The second thing I notice is that Noah is in the lineage of Jesus. Of course He is, because only Noah, Mrs. Noah, and their 3 sons and 3 daughter-in-laws were saved from the flood. Wait a minute! That means I’m related to Noah! And if I’m related to Noah, then I am also related to Adam…and I am therefore a daughter of God.

I know this is nothing new. I’ve known that I’m related to Noah. I also know that I am a true daughter of God only because I choose to follow Him, not because I was born into His family. But today there seems to be something special about that lineage, that heritage. Truly, I have God’s DNA (or I suppose more specifically the DNA that God put into Adam) in me.

Again, this is nothing new, but it struck me anew…and I am awed at the plan that God put into motion, even from creation. What an awesome God we serve!

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I have also been studying Ephesians 2:1-9. I was dead in my sins, but God (BUT GOD!), who is rich in mercy and because of His great love for me, has raised me up with Jesus and seated me with Him in heavenly places! Wow! That’s what a Father can do! That’s what a Savior can do!

Praise God for His immeasurable riches of grace. What a match for His immeasurable power.

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In worship Sunday, we sang about being under the shadow of God’s wing. It started some ruminating in my spirit. What does it mean to be under the shadow of God’s wing?

My first thought was of God’s protection. Scripture talks about hiding (Ps 16:8), taking refuge (Ps. 36:7). How comforting to be under God’s shadow. I know that I derive a sense of security simply by walking with my husband’s arm around me. Imagine that as the arm of God! His arm is always there.

My next thought was of the intimacy of the position. The picture that came to my head was that of a bird flying. When I am under its wing, I am able to see his underbelly. When I am under God’s wing, I can see His underbelly (figuratively speaking of course!). And I thought of God hiding Moses in the cleft of the rock and revealing Himself to Moses. (Ex 33). God wants to reveal Himself to us. He wants to show us His underbelly.

These are just a few of my thoughts over the past week. How about you? What comes to mind when think, sing or read about being in the shadow of God’s wings? Add your comments below.

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God spoke to me during worship at our church today.

Before I share it with you, let me get the “business side” of the blog out of the way. I know that readers of this blog are of many different spiritual backgrounds. When I say God spoke to me, I do not mean that I’m hearing the audible voice of the Lord. Rather, He spoke to me through the unexpected thought planted in my mind and the stirring of my spirit that says “pay attention to that thought” (again, not audible of course).

Back to God speaking to me…We were singing “I Will Never Be The Same Again” (words and music by Geoff Bullock, copyright 1995, Word Music, LLC and Maranatha! Music, made popular by Hillsongs). If you want to hear Hillsongs sing the song, click here.

I also worship through sign language as I sing.

The last lines of the song are “The Glory of God fills my life and I will never be the same again.” While singing, I unintentionally signed “satisfies” instead of “fills.” Upon realizing the error, God spoke to me, and He did so in such a way that I don’t believe the word was just for me, that it was a word for others as well.

I signed “The Glory of God satisfies my life” and God asked “are you satisfied with Me? Let Me be your ‘all in all.’ I do that by filling your life. Let me fill you — and you will never be the same again.”

Does the Gory of God satisfy your life? I confess that there are times when I don’t feel like He does. But I want Him to. I want to be satisfied with only Jesus. Lord, sweep away the darkness in my life and fill it with your light. Burn away the chaff and fill me with Your presence, Your thoughts, Your desires. I don’t want to be the same tomorrow as I am today.

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“If God was no greater than my experience with Him, He’d be a very shallow God!”
                  Pastor Larry, River of Life Christian Church, Norwalk, OH

Every now and then I need to be reminded to expand my view of God. How about you?

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5For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
  2 Peter 1:5-8

I’ve always been fascinated with this passage. Several things give me pause.

Make Every Effort
First, the passage begins with the phrase “make every effort” – in other words, I’m supposed to apply myself to this, not to expect it to happen by osmosis. Simply being around other Christians isn’t going to do it. Simply reading my Bible and praying isn’t going to do it. I’m to make every effort – work at it…and if one thing doesn’t work, try something else.

A Progression
Second, I think the progression is interesting…
     Begin with faith
       Add to that goodness
         Add knowledge
           Add self control
             Add perseverance (some versions say “patient endurance”)
               Add godliness (the Greek word also means “holiness”)
                 Add brotherly kindness
                   Add love

When I first came to faith in Christ, my desires changed and it was easy to begin to add goodness to that faith. I wanted to know more and more about Christ, so study – adding knowledge – was also easy. And as I learned more about what God’s standards were, I began to realize areas in which I needed to exercise self control. All came somewhat easy at first. Then the easy got a bit harder…either because I had gotten tired of being good or God was giving me opportunities to increase my goodness by putting more challenging situations in my path that allowed me to practice goodness. That’s when I needed to add perseverance.

Practicing perseverance isn’t fun, but there’s an element of perseverance in our pursuit of God that leads to godliness. God rewards our diligence, our pressing on or holding on, through enabling us (gracing us) with an apprehension of some degree of godliness. This is where transformation starts to take hold in our lives and it leads to brotherly kindness and love.

Please don’t think I’ve attained it. I said that it came easy at first, and then I needed to practice perseverance. That was true…and it continues to be true over and over again. God continually brings more challenging situations into my life to allow me to grow in each of these areas…so long as I continue to “make every effort.”

A Promise
I love verse 8 – “For (because) if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive…” Wow! This is a prescription for living a life that impacts those around us!

I don’t know about you, but I want the world to be a little different because I’ve lived in it. I want to have a positive impact on some lives. I want to know that some people are closer to Christ because they crossed my path. This verse promises me that if I continue to make every effort to increase in these qualities that I will be effective.

Make It Real
Phil and I were leading a Bible study on 2 Peter a while back and after our discussion of this passage, one person said “I know this, but I so quickly forget it. I get busy in my day and I forget to add goodness or perseverance or love. How can we remember these things in our hectic, every day life?” I can identify with this. We offered some of the usual suggestions, but I wasn’t satisfied with any of them. And her question got me thinking (again) about my own life…had I become lax in “making every effort.” The answer was probably “yes.” So I started praying for each quality, one each day, beginning at the top of the list and working my way to the bottom, then starting over. I found that to be almost disingenuous. I felt like I was giving it a cursory treatment, not truly making an effort.

So I begin to pray for each quality for a week. I prayed for God to increase faith the first week. The second week I prayed for Him to help me increase my goodness. Focusing on only one quality for a week was good. The daily repetition begin to sink in and by day three or four I would find myself remembering during the day to “add goodness” to whatever I was doing. That goodness might have simply taken the form of remembering to let someone else in front of me at the grocery store (or at least not knocking them down trying to beat them to the front of the line) or opening a door for someone or smiling more. But little things are the place to start. At the end of the second week I was feeling pretty good about having a handle on goodness…until I realized that I’d been on vacation all week – if it’s not easy to practice goodness during your vacation, it’s sure not going to be easy to practice it at home. So I decided to continue practicing goodness a second week.

Well, the (not so) short story is that it’s been about eight weeks since that Bible study. I’m up to self control. Yes, I’ve been stuck on this quality for about three weeks, but I’m not leaving it until I feel a release from God to move on. But I am seeing the qualities increasing in myself by small measures. And that’s a very good thing.

So give it a try. Commit to praying for one of the qualities each morning for a week or more. Ask God to help you grow in that quality during the day. He’ll do it. The Holy Spirit will whisper in your ear when situations come up for you to practice using the quality. Regular practice will lead to godliness, brotherly kindness and love. Not to mention a life that has left an impact on the world around you.

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His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.
                      2 Peter 1:3-4

I wanted to blog about 2 Peter 5-8. I’ve been thinking about it for several weeks now. But when I sat down to write, I first re-read the passage and knew I had to talk first about the two preceding verses.

We’ve been given everything we need, folks. Everything. There’s nothing that we need that we haven’t been given.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always think, believe, or act like the child who has everything she needs. What an ungrateful child I am!
Let’s re-arrange the sentence. Through our knowledge of God, we have been given everything we need for life and godliness by God’s divine power. The key is in the word through. It’s only through Him that I have these things.

I need some cash before going out for the day. There’s no cash in my wallet, my husband’s wallet or stashed anywhere in the house. To get the cash I need, I’ll have to go to the place where it’s kept – the bank. I have to go through the bank in order to get the money I need. And you know what, the more cash I want, the longer it will take me!

It’s not much different with God. Everything I need is in Him. He’s the bank. I need to go through Him to get what I need, and the longer I stay, the more I’ll get.

Now please don’t hear what I’m not saying. I mean no disrespect to God, of course, and I’m not treating Him as the Great Santa Clause, spoiling us everything we want. It’s just an analogy. The point is that I’ve been given everything I need, but it is only accessible through God.

There’s so much more in these two verses, but I’m trying to keep my blogs short. What jumps out at you when you read them? Is it that He’s given us everything we need for life? For godliness? Is it God’s glory or His goodness? Or maybe it’s that these qualities caused God to give us His great and precious promises? Is it that these promises allow us to participate in God’s divine nature or that they allow us to escape the corruption in the world?

There is much to mine out of these two short verses. But what I’m taking home with me today is that God has provided everything I need for life and godliness. Lord, I want to know this and act and live accordingly. That’s faith. Today, I will live as if I have everything I need. And I’ll pursue it by pursuing God.

And tomorrow I’ll blog about 2 Peter 1:5-8.

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Mark 9:49 “[Jesus said] For everyone will be purified with fire.” (spoken by Jesus)

“EVERYONE will be purified with fire.” That means me. That means you. No one will escape.

“Everyone will be PURIFIED with fire.” Purify means (according to the Merriam-Webster Online dictionary) “to clear from material defilement or imperfection,” “to free from guilt or moral or ceremonial blemish,” and “to free from undesirable elements.”

“Everyone will be purified with FIRE.” Burning and painful, consuming, destroying. Even a small burn from touching a hot pan is painful. Even a light burn from spending too much time in the sun is painful. And then the burned area dies away. The word “fire” is often used to mean trials or ordeals.

What is Jesus teaching? That none of us will escape the process of being freed from material defilement, guilt and other undesirable elements. Wow! That sounds like a great promise, doesn’t it? I want to be freed from the gunk in my life! I want to be free from my attachment to material things. Yes, Lord!

“OK,” Jesus says. “The process for this is by burning it away with fire.” I shrink back and say, “But Lord, isn’t there another (easier) way?”

I want to escape the fire. I want to escape the trial. I want to avoid the unpleasantness and just live on Pleasant Lane in Friendly Town in the state of Prosperity. It’s the “life I want.” I bet you do too.

But God says that those undesirable elements in my life are not removed by life on Pleasant Lane. They are removed by fire. I can choose to live on Pleasant Lane, but I won’t be purified. And somehow I think that true joy doesn’t live on Pleasant Lane. It might visit occasionally to give me a taste of what I could have if I allowed Jesus to purify me.

You see, “burning” can also mean something else – it can mean passionate, as in “burning desire.” When we choose to follow Jesus and making Him our one true, burning desire, He will purify us. He will set us free from the bondage we cling to (life, the way we want it). He knows that the bondage we cling to is the very thing that keeps us from experiencing true joy. Life, the way I want it, is too self-centered and self-focused. Life the way Christ wants me to have it is freedom and courage to lay down my life and serve others. Jesus is speaking again in Mark 17:33 and says, “Whoever clings to this life will lose it, and whoever loses this life will save it.”

So what trial are you in the middle of? Rejoice, because you know it is the process Christ is using to bring freedom!

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Last week I had to write a paper for my grad class. We didn’t get to pick the topic. It was assigned: “The Role of Women in Ministry.” Quite frankly, I’m pretty tired of the topic. I’ve been dealing with it one way or another since I came to Christ in 1979.

At the time, I was an officer in the Air Force and had dreams of a business career. It’s what I had had wanted to be since I was in junior high school – a business woman. Not a normal dream for a young girl, perhaps, but it was mine.

In college I struggled with how to have both a business career and children. I didn’t really want children, I just assumed I would have to have them some day. It was what women did. But I didn’t think I had the energy for both. I guess God didn’t think I could either because He sent me a man who didn’t want children! As I was getting to know Phil (and starting to fall in love with him), I was surprised and excited to learn he also didn’t want to have children.

Shortly after we were married, I came to Christ…and I cried for nearly two years! We attended a small church in Southern California, and every woman in that church was either a stay-at-home mom or in a stereotypical women’s career. They all had a life that I truly didn’t want. (Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t de-value those choices. They just hold no interest for me. It’s not how I’m wired. In our family we joke about how my sister got all the “mothering” genes.) It was several years before I met another Christian woman who was committed to the business world and seeing Christ move in it. But until then, I struggled — was I required to embrace a life that I had never wanted and give up my dreams of a business career in order to be a “good Christian wife?”

Well, I’ve done a lot of reading and studying about what the Bible says is an appropriate role for women, in the home, outside the home, and in the church. And while you may think from my preceding narrative that I was prone to accept women in ministry, it’s not been so. For most of my Christian life, I’ve been overcompensating for my biases when reading material on the subject. But over time I have changed my position. At the risk of being too controversial here, I’d like to make some observations:

  • I’ve found that most people really haven’t studied Scripture to learn what it says about women in ministry. They just accept a surface reading or what the were taught by their parents or pastors
  • Yes, there are some passages that seem to limit the role women can have in the church.
  • There are also passages in which the apostle Paul clearly commends women who held positions at all levels within the early church (from apostle to lay positions), from praying to prophesying to teaching.
  • These two facts make for controversy in many Christian circles. And that grieves my heart. While writing this current paper, I read reviews of a book in which both men and women were so very angry toward the authors and readers of the book. Again, I cried. Because it hurts my heart that simply because I’m a woman I’m at the center of a controversy that causes such anger.
  • We have historical records that verify that women served in ALL positions within the church during the first 300 years after Christ’s resurrection.
  • When discussing the role of women in church in our class, a young man who started with the premise that women should not be allowed to be pastors said something that finally boiled it down for me: The very fact that there are “exceptions” (that were approved by Paul) in Scripture to Paul’s (seemingly contradictory) statements that women should not speak or teach says that it is OK for women to speak and teach and lead local congregations.
  • We ought to all be careful lest we squash the call of God on someone else’s life.

My desire isn’t to start a firestorm. Just to get people thinking. Feel free to add your own comments, but please, let’s remember to honor one another – no angry invectives here, please. Oh, and if you want to read the paper I had to write (danger, danger, danger), just drop me an e-mail.

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