Thursday, December 31, 2009

Clean Sweep

Last summer Kelly took a small group of students to the Purpose Driven Youth Leadership Conference in California. It was an amazing trip as we were challenged to grow in worship, through the various postures of prayer, and in finding our own personal Kingdom Assignment.

Strangely enough, the one thing I use most often with my own children is something we were told the very first day of the conference. We were asked to behave in such a way that we didn't make the hotel staff where we were staying or the PDYM staff at Saddleback sorry that we had come. We were encouraged to make those around us happy that we were there.

Today as I continue my Read Thru the Bible in a Year, I read Genesis chapters 5-8 and was reminded of this instruction. Unfortunately, God's creation made Him sorry that they were there. Chapter 6 verses 5 & 6 state, "God saw that human evil was out of control. People thought evil, imagined evil - evil, evil, evil from morning to night. God was sorry that He had made the human race in the first place; it broke His heart."

WOW! God was sorry that He had made man. His very own creation broke His heart.

"But Noah was different." Oh, what a great verse. God didn't like what he saw in His creation, but He loved what He saw in Noah. Noah chose to live in the world but not of the world. Enoch was Noah's great-grandfather, and although he was taken by God before Noah was born, I wonder if his legacy affected Noah. Twice in the four verses talking about Enoch, it states that Enoch walked steadily with God.
Steadily. Direct or sure in movement. Unfaltering.

What a way to walk with God. What a testimony for all Christ followers to strive toward. A life lived in that manner would definitely affect the family. I'm sure Noah's father and grandfather reflected the life of Enoch on Noah as he was growing up. And in Noah, God was not sorry. He was not sad that Noah was alive and He chose to preserve his life. Even in the midst of His clean sweep.

God chose to get rid of all evil in the world. He chose to rid the earth of all things that entangled creation and kept them from the abundant life that God had prepared for them.

Hebrews 12:1 states "Since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses [Enoch, for example], let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perserverence the race marked out for us."

Let us make a clean sweep as we enter this new year. Prayerfully consider all those things that hinder your growth in Christ and choose to get rid of them. Name the sins that so easily entangle you. What is it that Satan uses time after time to trip you up and pull you away from the One who died for you? Get rid of that sin. Allow the blood that Jesus shed to wash that sin away and through your voice in prayer, defeat Satan. At the very mention of the name of Jesus, he must flee.

Make a clean sweep of Satan's hold on your life. Sweep him up and throw him out.

Make 2010 a victoriously clean year!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Poison or Fruit

I'm accepting the "Read the Bible in a Year" Challenge from Mark Batterson in his book, "Primal." I've always wanted to do this and even have a Bible designed for this purpose. And yet, I do not make it all 365 days. Why my precious Savior isn't worth my time on a daily basis for a daily intimate conversation is truly beyond me. Intimacy requires time and concentration; undivided attention to the details in the words and meanings.
So, in remembrance of my weaknesses, I am getting a headstart! :) Genesis 1-4 shows us God active participation in our lives...the very beginning of our lives. Over and over in chapter 1 it tells us, "God spoke...and there it was." As a result of His voice everything we see, and everything we don't see came into being. His voice produces fruit...and not just actual fruit made during creation! (apple, anyone?)

God spoke goodness over His creation as He contemplated His work. He took pride in His workmanship and teamwork as He called on the Son and Holy Spirit to join Him in creating man. This time, however, He got His hands dirty. He got involved with His entire being in creating man, including His very breath that entered Adam.

With His voice, God invited Adam to participate in His creation by giving him the privilege of naming every living creature. With His voice, He offered Adam an opportunity to keep the Garden of Eden in order and even gave him delicious food to eat. God also gave the first instruction when He told Adam to eat of any tree except one.

Satan also had a voice, in the form of the serpent and he used his voice to deceive and tempt. Eve used her voice in response with inaccurate information. She changed what God had actually instructed to make it seem more confining and restrictive. Eve also used her voice to influence Adam to join her in disobedience. Unfortunately, Adam did not use his voice to tell her, "No!"

Once again, with His voice, God searches for Adam. He wants to have a conversation; to share intimacy with His very creation. Instead, God must use His voice for correction; for discipline. I love Genesis 3:21. In the midst of disciplining His children, God shows compassion by making leather clothing for Adam and Eve. Then, He dresses them Himself. Talk about a designer label and stylist! Vera Wang's got nothing on Him.

In Genesis 4:6-7, God is once again instructing when He talks with Cain and He says, "Sin is lying in wait for you, ready to pounce; it's out to get you, you've got to master it." That same instruction is repeated in II Corinthians 10:5. "Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." Remember Ropes. Handcuffs. Duct Tape.

God used His words to give life; to produce fruit in creation and in our lives. Satan used words to kill; to poison a relationship that Adam and Eve had with their Creator.

"Words kill, words give life; they're either poison or fruit - you choose." Proverbs 18:21

What words will you choose today?

Poison? Fruit?

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Today Has Been a Great Day!

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Today has truly been a great day!

It didn't turn out exactly as planned. Rain kept us from riding our bikes to the park. Lack of brown sugar in the pantry and gas in the car kept us from making chocolate chip cookies. Risk took forever today and it kept us from playing Monopoly. Phog kept using the corner by the front door as his bathroom. Cameron flipped over a teammate at basketball and landed on his head on the gym floor.

We improvised! We watched a new movie from Christmas instead of riding bikes. We waited on Kelly to bring us some brown sugar and had cookies for dessert after dinner instead of an afternoon snack. Monopoly will be the first priority for tomorrow. Nothing can make Phog's actions positive. :( And, Cameron's injury is not the first; nor will it be his last.

Today has been a great day! I got to spend it at home with my children having fun and making memories. It is a blessing from God that I do not take for granted. Life is but a vapor and we need to be intentionally opportunistic to take advantage of every moment God gifts us with.

One gift from today came as the boys were washing dishes and I was putting fresh from the dryer sheets on their beds. Chloe was in the living room singing a song that she was making up as she went at the top of her voice. The song became monotonous as she repeated the same words over and over interspersed with "Trust me" and "It's not funny." I got out the video camera and taped her. I tried to be sneaky, but in our little duplex you just can't hide.

I'm not sure what tomorrow holds...besides Monopoly, but I know God will be working and I fully intend to join Him! How about you?

Ropes. Handcuffs. Duct Tape.

For me, Mark Batterson's words are convicting; straight from my Heavenly Father. I have had difficulty reading a complete chapter of "Primal" in one sitting. Not because of poor writing, but because the Holy Spirit is speaking...He is moving and I do not want to miss anything. I want to move on to the last section on the Strength of Christianity, and I have started. Yet, I have to continue my focus on a portion from the Mind of Christianity a little longer.

"Take captive every thought and make it obedient to Christ." II Corinthians 10:5

Bind up. Ropes. Handcuffs. Duct Tape. Sounds like capturing a villain; someone unwanted; someone who wants to harm; someone who wants to steal, kill and destroy. I've quoted this verse time and time again as Satan lures me into sin. He knows my weaknesses and uses my active imagination to create fear, loneliness, and belief in things not true. He has led me down paths that I truly didn't want to take. He has had me believe that my desires were more important than my commitments. I have experienced victory because of spiritual ropes, handcuffs and duct tape. (The duct tape is necessary because my thoughts are loud...we are talkers!)

However, Mark Batterson casts a new perspective on this verse that has gripped me. And I can't shake it. He states that my interpretation of this verse is only "half the battle."
"This verse is not just about capturing sinful thoughts and getting them out of
our minds; it's also about capturing creative thoughts and keeping them in
our minds. It means stewarding every word, every thought, every
impression, and every revelation inspired by the Spirit of God."
Capturing creative thoughts. WOW! Like I said, I have an active imagination and would love to have a job where someone paid me for all of my ideas. I may not be organized and detailed enough to implement the ideas, but I can surely come up with some doozies! Sadly, most of my ideas are simply dreams; they have never been captured and brought to reality.

One, though, has been with me since the fall of 2002 when I was living in Kansas with Kelly's sister. An idea for a book. I have a file with articles and ideas and a little research. I have made phone calls and personal requests for people to participate. I have brainstormed interview questions with a close friend. I have written a preface. Yet, feelings of inadequacy keep me captive. I am the one tied up, handcuffed and duct taped.

So, I am asking you to hold me accountable for the next twelve months. Come alongside me and pray that I will take this God Idea and hold it captive. Encourage me to be obedient to the most creative inventor and follow through on a dream that is getting old. I desire to be used of God to shape the next generation of missionaries. I want to be a part of the salvation of that last one. I want to be used to usher in the trumpet sound.

Imagine with day, somewhere in the world, a Christian leads someone to Jesus and immediately the trumpet sounds and Jesus returns!

The harvest is plentiful and the laborers are few.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

The Quest Continued

"Love the Lord your God with all your mind."

Mark Batterson begins the section on the Mind of Christianity in his book, Primal, with a quote by Oliver Wendell Holmes.

"A mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its original shape."

I love this quote! It makes me think of a balloon that has been blown up and released before it is tied off. You can picture it now I am sure. The pressure of the air releasing causes the balloon to shoot around the room as it falls to the ground. The balloon is now softer and all stretched out. It will never be the same again. This quote parallels our minds to a balloon and air to a new idea.

Mark backs up this quote with a couple of studies that prove the point. One of them takes us to the part of our brain that notices every car on the road that is the same as the one we just purchased. The very car that we would have sworn noone else had...until we bought it. Now it seems to be everywhere! Our mind has been stretched and it is no longer the same.

I have always said that reading and memorizing will cause our brains to grow. A friend even purchased books for my first newborn and wrote in the front cover, "Enjoy the story as your brain grows." A Sunday School class of ladies went in on a gift together and surprised me with a whole collection of books at my first baby shower. My husband has complained about the number of books that my sister and I purchase because there is simply no more room for them. And, yet I know that the more we read and learn the greater our capacity for learning. So, we are having built-in bookshelves built into our new home because I will never stop reading.

This conviction of mine is explained by Mark as the posterior hippocampus. God created us with the ability to learn something new everyday! Mark says, "Learning isn't a luxury; it's a stewardship issue." WOW! Not only is every good teacher a good learner, but seems like every good...growing Christian is a learner.

In Primal, Mark challenges us to continue reading about every subject that sparks an interest in us, to memorize scripture and dig deep. It makes me think of science. Every good scientist asks questions...all kinds of questions, but especially the ones that noone can yet answer. Every good science fair project leads to another project. It simply creates curiousity; a desire to find out more.

What else can I learn about God? What can I discover? What am I missing out on? I love it when students ask me questions that I can't answer. I keep a post-it note on my podium at school and when there is a question that I'm unsure of I will jot it down and then start the search. I ask others that know more than I do. I search the internet. I read books. I dig for answers. It is definitely fulfilling when I can go back to my students and tell them the answer and how I discovered it, because there isn't anything I do that a fifth grader cannot do on their own.

Proverbs 25:2 "God delights in concealing things; scientists delight in discovering things."

Mark Batterson says he thinks God loves it when we discover something or experience something that is new to us, even if those discoveries are common knowledge. Just as a parent loves to hear their preschooler say the ABCs or their kindergartener read their first book, God loves to have us discover His hidden riches.

Loving God with all our mind means to continually learn and discover God's hidden treasures.

Monday, December 21, 2009

The Quest Continues

In Primal, Mark Batterson focuses my attention on the Great Commandment.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength."

I have read and heard that Scripture so many times that I have truly lost touch with the depth of its meaning. As I have embarked on this quest, I have longed for more time to be alone with God to truly reflect on the journey He has led me on.

Mark equates the four primal elements of the Great Commandment as follows: "The heart of Christianity is primal compassion. The soul of Chrisitanity is primal wonder. The mind of Christianity is primal curiousity. The strength of Christianity is primal energy."

Now, one of my spiritual gifts is giving so I assumed the chapters on the heart would be the easy ones to read...not much soul searching or conviction. How silly of me. Mark shared an experience he had while attending a Civil Forum on Global Health sponsored by Saddleback Church. A video was shown portraying the effects of AIDS. "Eight thousand people will die from AIDS today. Then, after all the stories and numbers and faces, the documentary posed this question: 'Are you okay with this?'"

That question got me. Not so much because of my answer but because of lack of proof to back up my answer. No! This is not okay. I am not okay with this. I am not okay that children in my country or city are hungry as they try to fall asleep. I am not okay that a child is crying themself to sleep because they have been beaten and abused. I am not okay that little ones are abandoned. I am not okay that people are dying without hearing the name of Jesus. But what am I doing about it?

"Where your treasure is, there your heart is also."

The only way to know if my heart truly breaks for the things that break Gods heart is to look at my bank statement and calendar. What is my money and time spent on? Where is my energy expended? Where is my heart drained? If the heart of Christianity is compassion then my heart needs to be bursting with love that is in action. The action of giving and going; sharing and speaking.

The soul of Christianity is wonder. Christmas is the perfect time of year to ponder this sentiment. A single strand of Christmas lights from the dollar store can transform a child's smile into a radiant glow! Now take that same child by a home that is decked out in Christmas spirit and they are giddy with excitement.

Chloe equates the amount of Christmas lights with how much someone loves Jesus! Right after Thanksgiving a neighbor down the street put up more Christmas lights than I imagined possible in places I never expected to see lights. The first time we drove past this display Chloe said, "Look Mommy! They must really love Jesus because they have so much Christmas spirit." As soon as we were home I got the wreaths on our outside windows! I love Jesus, too!

As adults, we drive past decorated homes with a focus straight ahead. We have somewhere to be and need to get there quickly. But children have a sense of wonder. They are awed by the glow and the twinkles. Their eyes shine with excitement and their imaginations full of possibilities! I have seen it all before. I've lived through so many Christmases, twelve of them in Branson! Silver Dollar City has as many lights as all the stars in heaven! (I'm sure the guys who put them all up would agree with this.) After a while, the thrill seems to wear away.

As a follower of the Almighty God, I desperately pray that the thrill stays new! I yearn for a childlike wonder to fill my soul as I search for how God is moving around me. I keep mementos of the moments that God has floored me with His power and involvement in my life. Items such as a busted communion cup and a photo of a fake tattoo on my son's wrist.

I have yet to delve into the elements of curiousity and energy, but I will. Trust me...I am committed to allowing God to penetrate my being and proof Himself real in every area of my life. In my heart. In my soul. In my mind. In my strength.

I am His.

Join me on this quest.

The book will be availabe for purchase on December 22nd. My copy was provided for review by Waterbrook Multnomah.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Quest for the Soul of my Christianity

I'm taking a journey this month to rediscover the heart of my Christian experience. Searching for the days when my Savior was the sole focus of my heart, soul, mind and strength as I read and pray through Mark Batterson's new book, Primal.

I remember times in high school when I knew God wanted to speak with me; times in college when He strengthened me with His provision and peace; times as a new wife as He inspired me to write and witness; and times as I reached my 40th birthday that He gripped my heart with a passion that I feel inadequate to possess.

In the midst of a busy career with active children and a husband that spends his days building the Kingdom of Christ, I find it easy to lose sight of who I truly am in Christ...who He truly desires me to become. He would not place desires and dreams in my soul if He did not believe they would be used for His glory and His good.

I pray that as I go through this adventure, I will truly rediscover the authentic soul of my relationship with my sweet Jesus.

Join me on this quest.

The book will be availabe for purchase on December 22nd. My copy was provided for review by Waterbrook Multnomah.