I am trying to learn to rejoice more. Today I went from rejoicing to outright praise.
You see, my daughter has had issues with her teeth and jaw. At one point they said it was receding to the point that her airway could possibly become restricted in the future. They talked about surgery. We decided to pray.
They talked about another option involving multiple procedures, inserts, pulling, devices to jut the jaw out abnormally for awhile. Oh and if they did all that, it still might not work.
My wife and I went over the finances and knew it would be tight...we would have to save some money. In the meantime we kept praying. Our daughter was a bit upset by the idea of all these procedures, etc. but did not want surgery.
Today, at a dental consultation, they decided that....in a nutshell "things changed." The dentist attributed it to growth that could have gone either way.
The way it went was through the throne room of God.
So she needs braces. We all rejoiced as we went from all that to this. My daughter was ecstatic and we are praising God for reducing multiple problems to something simple like braces.
Of course, the key is to rejoice regardless the outcome. Can we rejoice in the bad times as well as the good?
To all those who read any of the recent posts by my guest bloggers, I hope you enjoyed what you read. If you missed one, here again is the list with links. I provided titles where ones were given:
Anne Jackson - The Power of Words
Fred Von Kamecke - Is It Just My Karma?
Sarah Apperson - Coping or Overcoming?
Hanna Apperson - Love
Dave Lloyd - Going To See Darlene
Stanley Groothof - Going Public
Andrew Farley - Forgiven or Cleansed, or Not?
Angela Bond - Wiping Out Locusts
Welcome to Blogapalooza.
I want you to meet some new people. I asked various friends and bloggers to share with you this month on my blog. So, all through the month of June I will feature different voices from around the world. Today I would like to introduce you to:
Somehow Angela and I are related. Her husband's sister married my wife's brother. We are shirt-tail relatives. Angela is a bit of a prophet though she might not admit it. God has used her to speak wisdom into our lives and she has a habit of getting to the truth and heart of any matter. She is a friend and a dear sister in the Lord. I want to encourage you to read these words of wisdom.
Wiping out Locusts
I will restore what the locusts have taken. Joel 2:25
I just got back from a run. At 6:00 this morning I ran for 20 minutes without stopping for the first time. I don't mean for the first time in a few years, or since high school; I mean for the first time ever in my life. This is something I didn't think I'd ever be able to do.
You see, I'm not the athletic type.
In elementary school, I dreaded “picking teams” becasue I was always the last one picked. Often I was even picked after the fat kid with one eye.(I mean last!) And it wasn't just because I was unpopular. No, I was an undesirable team-mate because I was the kid who ran slowly, fell down, and got the ball in the face, every time.
In high school I was in modified PE. I had athsma. I couldn't run. When I was 14 I injured my knee and was told I would never run. Not much of a loss, really. I couldn't do it anyways.
I always believed I was just built that way. God built people in different shapes and sizes. Maybe I can't run, but I can do things that other people can't do. I'm gimpy and clumsy, but I'm smart. No big deal, right?
A short time ago my doctor allowed me to repeal my solemn promise to never ever, under any circumstances even think about trying to run, jog, bounce or jump. I'd renewed the promise when I started exercising about a year ago, but things seemed to be improving, in spite of a condition which “eats” cartilidge.
So for the last few months I've been running (well, it sort of resembles running – I'm talking about miracles here, not athletic form!) It's been a slow progression – I've been following a program of walking and running that slowly increases running time. It took me 2½ months to finish the first 2 weeks!
I'm telling you this because I don't want you to think that my healing was handed to me on a silver platter while I sat on the couch and wondered where God was. I know it happens that way sometimes, but it didn't work that way for me.
God did meet me on the couch – His love and healing is unconditional; He showed me His grace and goodness and compassion, and taught me to be thankful in spite of the pain. But much of the actual physical healing has come, in my case, with effort.
Again, I want to be clear: I didn't do this – there are changes in my body which I could not have brought about – and God's love and healing does not depend on my effort. But in this case, the changes didn't happen until I believed, and started acting accordingly (with permission and supervision of my doctor.)
Let's fast forward to this morning's happy dance in the middle of the street. I felt as though God had restored something that had been lost to me. But it's not what you think.
It is a miracle for me to run and not stop. It is an immeasurable blessing to really believe for the very first time, that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. Not just the things that I think I can do. It changes everything.
Still, the real miracle is what happened at the end of my run. First He gave me the answer to my recent prayers, and caused me to celebrate and praise Him, publicly and unashamedly without regard to who might be watching. I was just so excited, so joyful, that I did a happy dance and lifted up my hands and gave a great big thankyou right there in the street and didn't feel even remotely self conscious. (I danced like David, except with clothes on.) He answered my prayer.
But then He answered another one, so deep and serious and huge that it's hard to say out loud, even when I pray.
I did my happy dance, I took a deep breath and then I realized that what I wanted to do more than anything was to run home to tell my husband.
I won't go into details except to say that being married is hard – it's good, but hard. I thought God gave me a new ability, a physical healing, renewed faith and confidence, and He did. But what He restored, the real desire of my heart, the real thing I had lost that the locusts had eaten in the years of sickness and worry and loss was an ease and joy with my husband.
I thought God was restoring my body. But He is restoring my heart for my husband.
Where would I be if I did not believe I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living? Ps 27:13
Welcome to Blogapalooza.
I want you to meet some new people. I asked various friends and bloggers to share with you this month on my blog. So, all through the month of June I will feature different voices from around the world. Today I would like to introduce you to...I was familiar with Clay Crosse, the award winning singer. It was not until I read his book, I Surrender All, written with his wife Renee, that I became familiar with Clay the author and ministry leader. This led me to their ministry website, Holy Homes which I would encourage all of you to check out. Clay was a guest on 5 Questions With... and he took time out of his busy schedule to share some thoughts with you during Blogapalooza.
Some friends of ours recently were out on a drive with their children when their eight year old daughter saw something out the window that caught her eye. “Hey Mommy, look! That place is called The Pony! What’s The Pony?” she asked. “Is that some cool restaurant? I want to go to The Pony!”
The little girl didn’t know that The Pony is actually a strip club. I can understand the awkwardness of the situation as her dad tried to explain such a place to his daughter.
As parents we are all faced with these unexpected instances from time to time. An image or person or place presents itself in full view of our children and we are forced to keep our composure and define it for what it is. The thing is, we’d rather not. After all, they’re so young and shouldn’t have to know about such evil. We wish that we could simply shield our children from the darkness of the world…but we can’t. The tough questions from our little will continue.
“Hey Daddy, why did those two policemen have to get shot and killed by those bad men?”
“Mommy, what does a hooker do?”
“Why isn’t there enough food for everyone in the world?
“Dad, what does rape mean?
“Mommy that sign said ‘Adult Gifts and Movies.’ When I grow up, then can I have adult gifts and movies too?”
“Daddy, what is an STD? I heard those letters on a commercial today?”
Pretty awkward huh? Any one of these questions could have come from a child simply playing with their toys in the floor within earshot of any TV or radio broadcast or peering out the car window at a random billboard passing by.
So what do we do, turn off all TVs and radios and put blinders on our kids while in public? Of course not. Our kids live in the same dark world that we do and there’s no way to completely hide such from them. There will be many voices and images that they encounter along the way.
The point to grasp is that as their parent, no voice is stronger than yours. No voice touches deeper. No voice last longer in their memory. No voice is more special in their heart than the voice of Mom and Dad.
Through our ministry HolyHomes, (holyhomes.org) Renee and I challenge homes to really take stock of what is coming in via all entertainment sources. We should make wise choices in terms of our TV, movies, music, and online activity. But as I have pointed out, negative things just find their way to our children and they will naturally ask honest questions about them. God has entrusted us, as parents, to be the voice of truth and wisdom in the lives of our children. They may not realize it, but they desperately need us to point them to the truth through God’s word.
With our children we can enjoy a world that is beautiful and has amazingly loving people everywhere. At the very same time though we are reminded daily that this same world has deeply sinful and sad elements. This darkness will not go unnoticed by precious little eyes and ears.
Mom and Dad, speak wisdom. Speak love. Speak hope. Speak forgiveness. Speak truth.
I want you to meet some new people. I asked various friends and bloggers to share with you this month on my blog. So, all through the month of June I will feature different voices from around the world. Today I would like to introduce you to...I was first introduced to Andrew via his book, The Naked Gospel which I reviewed on this site. Andrew was one of my guests on 5 Questions with...Andrew has graciously excerpted part of his book here for Blogapalooza. I would encourage you to read it and then go buy a copy of the book asap. You should also check out Andrew's ministry site: Ecclesia, Church Without Religion where he is the lead teaching pastor. Andrew is working on more books as you read this.
Forgiven and Cleansed, Or Not?
an excerpt from The Naked Gospel (Zondervan)
by Andrew Farley
We Christians are totally forgiven of all our sins, no matter what.
What about 1 John 1:9—“If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness”? At first glance, this well-known verse appears to muddy the waters concerning once-for-all forgiveness. In many books and articles on the topic of forgiveness, this verse often serves as the foundation on which the author’s belief system is constructed.
Theologians and Christian authors will often agree with John that “your sins have been forgiven on account of [Jesus’] name” (1 John 2:12). But later you find them essentially saying that confession is needed to cause God to forgive you. The problem is that both statements can’t be true at the same time. Either we’ve been forgiven, or there’s a condition for us to be forgiven.
To resolve this dilemma, some Christian thinkers have proposed the following: Christians are forgiven eternally in God’s heavenly record books. However, unless Christians keep short accounts with God through daily confession of sins, they can’t experience God’s cleansing during life on earth. Hence, they claim that 1 John 1:9 is the believer’s “bar of soap” to maintain daily fellowship with God. And they use terms such as judicial, patriarchal, and forensic as they delicately dance around the reality of once-for-all forgiveness and push the idea of a two-tiered forgiveness system in which eternally God is satisfied, but right now we somehow maintain our own daily cleansing through a confession ritual.
This line of thinking is nothing short of rampant today in Christian teaching, and 1 John 1:9 is their one and only hallmark verse. Note that if verse 9 were not to mean what they claim it means (a daily “bar of soap” for Christians), the entire theology they have crafted would fall to pieces. Seminaries around the world warn us not to develop theologies based principally around one verse, but this has been an unfortunate exception among scholars and pastor-teachers alike.
First, it’s important to recognize that this verse stands as the only one of its kind. No other verse in the epistles appears to place a conditional “if” on forgiveness and cleansing. So if there was a method for maintaining daily cleansing, the Romans were unaware of it. If there was a prescription for keeping short accounts with God, the Galatians had no exposure to it. If there was a need to ask God for forgiveness, the Ephesians weren’t privy to it. Similarly, the Corinthians, Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians also missed this teaching.
If there were a daily method to maintain good status (fellowship) with God through ongoing confession of sins or pleas for forgiveness, wouldn’t you think it’d be mentioned in at least one epistle? Did God accidentally leave it out? Certainly not! The fact is that we must take a closer look at 1 John 1:9 to understand John’s intended audience and the context of this peculiar verse.
From the beginning of John’s first chapter, we see him addressing prominent heresies in the early church. John begins his letter with words such as heard, seen, looked at, and touched to describe his interactions with Jesus. He does this to emphasize the physicality of Jesus.
Today, we take for granted that Jesus was physical. Of course he was! No argument there. But two millennia ago early forms of Gnostic thought infiltrated the church and popularized the idea that Jesus was only spirit. Early Gnostics claimed that God would never stoop so low as to take on human flesh. So the apostle John purposely uses physical words in his opening statement to challenge this Gnostic heresy. Later, he says that anyone who doesn’t believe that Jesus came in human flesh is not from God (1 John 4:3).
If that’s the case, then who was John’s audience in his first chapter? True believers don’t claim that Jesus lacked a physical body. So John is notIf we claim to be without sin correcting believers in his opening statement. He’s addressing Gnostics who had infiltrated the early church and were teaching false doctrines. After establishing the physicality of Jesus, John then writes, “, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8, italics added).
Why is John now concerned about those who claim they’re sinless? Do you know any true believers today who say they’ve never sinned? Of course not! What’s the first step to becoming a believer in Christ? The first step is to admit you’re a sinner. Someone who claims that they have never sinned is not a Christian. So here John is concerned for unbelievers.
Interestingly, early Gnostic philosophers didn’t just deny the physicality of Jesus; they also denied the reality of sin. Gnostics claimed that sin wasn’t real or didn’t matter, since it took place in the physical world. So John opens his letter by attacking two Gnostic heresies: (1) Jesus as non-physical, and (2) sin as a non-reality.
Understanding John’s purpose in opening his letter this way is crucial. A poor interpretation of verse 9 leads many Christians astray. Again, verse 9 declares, “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Some claim that this verse must refer to Christians, since John uses the word we. If that were true, one should hold that all preceding and following verses using we also refer to Christians. But this isn’t the case.
John uses we to politely combat Gnostic heresy. We see this technique in the following:
*If we claim to be without sin … (1 John 1:8)
*If we claim we have not sinned … (1 John 1:10)
Similarly, John uses the word us to draw conclusions such as these:
*God’s] word is not in us (1 John 1:10 NASB)
Is John referring to believers here? When referring to people who don’t have the truth in them or God’s word in them, does he include himself and the church in that group? Certainly not! John is politely saying that if we humans claim we have no sin, we’re liars and don’t have Christ (the Word and the Truth) in us. Clearly, John is talking about unbelievers.
So if an unbeliever has bought into the heresy of sinless perfection, what’s the only sensible solution? Let’s reread verse 9 to see if we can get John’s intent: “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Verse 9 is a remedy for unbelievers who have been influenced by Gnostic peer pressure and are now claiming sinless perfection. John is essentially asking, “Instead of claiming that you have no sin, will you consider changing your mind? Instead of claiming you’ve never sinned, how about agreeing with God?” He’s inviting Gnostic heretics to rethink their point of view. If they’ll admit their sinfulness, then God can do a saving work in their lives.
So 1 John 1:9 is an invitation to become a Christian. And it certainly holds relevance today. If anyone claims to be without sin, they’re wrong. But there’s a solution to their misguided thinking. If they’re willing to change their mind and confess the opposite (that they do have sins), then there’s hope.
Did you notice that this verse declares they’d be purified from allall unrighteousness is reminiscent of forgiveness passages elsewhere in the epistles. Here, John isn’t asking for a one-by-one tallying of our sins in order for Christians to stay forgiven and cleansed. That would be ludicrous, given the impossibility for any human to truly comply! unrighteousness? The phrase
Think about it. You’ve already committed thousands of sins that you’ve forgotten about. You can’t possibly remember them in order to confess them and become forgiven for them. That’s why Christians have to be purified from all unrighteousness—once and for all!
Our Daily Bar of Soap
This contextualized interpretation of verse 9 may be new to some who have viewed the passage as a prescription for Christians who just committed an individual sin. First John 1:9 has been their “bar of soap” routine to stay cleansed and in fellowship with God.
What a tragedy! In adopting this view, we fail to acknowledge that only blood (not words) brings forgiveness. We miss the fact that Jesus’ once-for-all blood sacrifice brought lifelong cleansing. So we dialogue with God to feel forgiven and cleansed. This feeling serves as our confirmation that God just forgave us. But some aren’t able to conjure up this feeling. And as a result they end up doubting their forgiveness!
Let’s clarify an important point. The meaning of confess is “to say the same as” or “to agree.” Believers should agree with God on all counts—not just about sins but about everything. Although we don’t confess our sins in order to receive new portions of forgiveness and cleansing, we should still agree with God concerning the folly of sin. We’re his children, and it is only his ways that fulfill. We’re designed from the ground up to agree with him, depend on him, and live from him.
But it’s equally important to recognize that we don’t impel God or put him into motion through our confession. He’s not waiting to dole out forgiveness or cleansing. We don’t need to keep “short accounts” with God, since he has destroyed the record book!
God has taken away our sins. He remembers them no more. As believers, our forgiveness and cleansing aren’t dependent on our memory, our confession, or our asking. Our forgiveness and cleansing are solely because of the finished work of Jesus Christ.
The Other Confession
Sure, James talks about confessing our sins to each other and praying for each other (James 5:16). But he’s saying we should listen to each other’s struggles, offer counsel where appropriate, and pray for each other. The context of James’s exhortation to confess our sins to each other has nothing to do with God’s forgiving or cleansing us.
Confession to trusted friends and to God is healthy. It’s normal and natural to talk about your struggles with people who care about you. The indispensable truth to grasp, however, is that confession does not initiate cleansing in your life. We’ve already been cleansed “once for all” through the onetime blood sacrifice that needs no repeating.
Let’s be honest about our struggles, but let’s also be clear about what the cross accomplished.
Protestants and Catholics
Protestants may claim they’re more biblical than their Catholic peers, since the epistles contain no grounds for confessing sins to a priest in order to be forgiven. Some Protestants may even laugh at the idea of a confession booth or the ritual of going to Mass in order to obtain forgiveness. But these same Protestants may ritualistically apply 1 John 1:9 as their spiritual bar of soap. Is one view of forgiveness really any better than the other?
The Catholic goes to a priest, and the Protestant thinks he does better by appealing directly to God. But any system that doesn’t factor in once-for-all forgiveness is intrinsically flawed.
God doesn’t want us to think that human priests apportion forgiveness to us. Nor does he want us to envision his doling out forgiveness from heaven on a “first come, first serve” basis! Instead, he wants us to ascribe real meaning to Jesus’ declaration, “It is finished.”
Only then will we turn from sins for the right reason. Our motivation shouldn’t be to obtain forgiveness in return. We’re already forgiven and cleansed children of the living God. Our motivation should be the fulfillment that comes from truly being ourselves.
Welcome to Blogapalooza.
I want you to meet some new people. I asked various friends and bloggers to share with you this month on my blog. So, all through the month of June I will feature different voices from around the world. Today I would like to introduce you to...Stanley is a fellow Pastor here in the Bulkley Valley where I live. More than that he has become a brother and a friend. Stanley and his wife are very friendly, caring and unassuming. You can;t help but smile when you talk with them. Stanley started blogging awhile back and his blog is now one of my destination reads. Read this piece Stanley sent and then check out his blog!
There comes a time when you’ve got to admit to yourself, to God, and to others who you are and in whom you ultimately find your identity. While you can think of this simply as a requirement, it’s also a natural progression of growth: It’s just gonna happen.
For example, consider Obadiah (the man in charge of evil King Ahab’s palace, not the prophet who wrote a book in the Old Testament). Until his encounter with Elijah, he’s able to live a double life. On the outside, he is loyal to Baal-worshipping, believer-killing King Ahab; but on the inside, he is “a devout believer in the LORD.” So thoroughly is he committed to the true God of Israel that he is willing to risk his career, his prominence, even his life to hide faithful Israelites whose heads Queen Jezebel is collecting, it seems, not unlike how people collect coins or stamps. But through this all, Obadiah’s true allegiance remains a big secret. No one knows.
And the day comes when God asks Obadiah to finally reveal who (and whose) He really is. Elijah, God’s prophet, asks Obadiah to let King Ahab know that he’s back in town after a bone-dry, 3-year hiatus that has made Ahab & Jezebel’s god Baal – a.k.a. lord of the rain – look like a nincompoop.
Obadiah responds to Elijah’s request by saying, “What have I done wrong that you are handing your servant over to Ahab to be put to death?” In other words, “Let me tell you what’s going to happen when I tell old Ahab that I saw you: He’ll demand to know why I didn’t kill you, Elijah, or at least drag you in the dust to his feet. Ahab’s red-hot mad that God is humiliating his precious Baal. When he realizes that the two of us are in cahoots, that your God is also my God, my head’s going to be added to Jezebel’s collection!”
Elijah encourages frightened Obadiah to trust him. But this is a huge step for Obadiah. Until now, things have been comfortable – everything okay on the outside while secretly knowing the truth on the inside. But now that truth is getting out. It’s time for the outside to more closely match the inside, and that spells trouble.
This is the natural progression for everyone who is led by the Holy Spirit. You may have asked Jesus into your heart, but He’s not content to just quietly sit there. He wants to transform your heart, yes, but also your mind, your words, your feelings, your actions. As we grow in faith, the way we live, act and behave must and will increasingly look more Christlike until we cannot help but go public and say, “Well, yes, I do in fact love and follow Jesus!”
Is that a frightening prospect? Quite likely. It will cost you. Yet in this life and the next, you’ll gain far, far more than anything you lose. The presence of your faithful God and knowing you’re His beloved child cannot compare to anything else.
It turns out that Obadiah trusts Elijah. He goes public. As we are led by Jesus’ Holy Spirit, may we find more and more ways to do the same.
The Bible doesn’t say what happens next to Obadiah, but I think it’s safe to say that things get less boring and real interesting.
You can count on that particular blessing happening to you, too.
Welcome to Blogapalooza.
Going to See Darlene
First of all, thanks Rick for the invite to share on your blog. I appreciate your love and friendship through the years, and this opportunity is a gift for which I'm truly grateful.
Earlier this evening I announced to my wife, "I'm going to see Darlene." Lemme 'splain.
A church I pastored for a while (that just closed) had an unusual sense of marketing and evangelism. One of the things we did was give away koozies. For the uninitiated, a koozie is something you put a beverage in to keep it cool. We live in Florida after all. On the outside of the koozie it said "CrossBridge Church. The church with the free koozies." We gave out hundreds of them.
Now, obviously many people use koozies for beer. But they also use them for soft drinks and to hold their pencils and pens. Anyway, people thought it was funny to have a koozie from a church. That was the point.
Close to my house is a liquor store. One night shortly after the church started public meetings, I visited the drive-through window and after making my purchase I gave them 4-5 koozies for all the employees. They were amused, as was my hope, and I got to tell them about our church.
A week or so later I went through the drive through again. I was trying to get there before the store closed and I was barefoot and in my pajama pants. One of the employees heard me and ran up to the window, "Are you that preacher?" I answered in the affirmative, and she told me that her husband passed away that morning." She came to work anyway because her fellow employees were her primary social support system. Her name is Darlene.
I prayed with Darlene through the window of the liquor store, since I was...uhhh...underdressed. I made a point of seeing her frequently over the next few weeks. God touched her life through this experience, and He touched mine too. She even came to church with us for a while.
Since then I've gotten to know a couple of the other ladies who work there. When I drive through their faces light up and they always ask about my family. It's not unusual for us to get into a conversation about God and His love for us.
Everybody is looking for some love. Everybody. Darlene and her co-workers have been judged enough by Christians who feel it is their job to be the moral police of the world. But these ladies responded when someone finally treated them with respect and dignity, listening to their hearts and becoming aware of their needs. I think that's how Jesus was. He was a friend of sinners. He was judged because of the company he kept. But He loved well.
Here's the deal. I'm Darlene. You're Darlene. We all have hurts and needs and none of us are perfect. There are things about all of us that (if known) would make us the recipients of criticism and judgment from others. But Jesus didn't judge us, only loved us. When He came to us He was going to see Darlene.
I want you to meet some new people. I asked various friends and bloggers to share with you this month on my blog. So, all through the month of June I will feature different voices from around the world. Today I would like to introduce you to...
Hanna was born in 1998. She gave her life to the Lord at the age of 6 and has been growing in Christ ever since. She approached me with this devotional of her own accord recently and I wanted to share it with you.
Love is patient,
Love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
It is not proud.
It is not rude,
It is not self-seeking,
It is not easily angered,
It keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts,
Always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
1 Cor. 13: 4-8
God is a wonderful God, and I personally would love it if I could radiate all of these things everyday, at the same time. However, I can't. For only our wonderful God can really do that. I can do some of these things however, because I do have God's love in my heart.
Love comes from God and, because He lives in me, I can love. Do you have love? If you do not, PLEASE just ask God for that love and you will have it to. He loved us so much that He sent His Son, Jesus, to die on the cross so that we could have love.
Welcome to Blogapalooza.
I'm honoured to be asked to guest write again at Just a Thought. I'm going to go out on a limb here and presume that a majority of Rick's readers live in his current home state of British Columbia. No... 'state' isn't a typo, I've been to California enough times to know that west coast living is a state of mind. But I've only been to B.C. on a technicality. Let me explain.
Thanks to my parents' love of road trips -- and one I did with a friend when I was 21 -- I've been to 40 of the 50 U.S. states. My last trip with them was when I was 14 and we went from Ontario to Utah and then north to Banff National Park and Lake Louise in Alberta where, even in the rain, it was still a picture postcard scene. My father was backtiming the days he needed to drive back through the Canadian prairies and return to work on time, so when I pleaded that I wanted to cross B.C. off my "places visited" list, the best he could do with the time remaining was to drive into Jasper National Park. A few feet into the park. For three minutes.
On that basis, I've been to British Columbia. Sort of.
I wonder if people approach the Christian faith that way? At some point in their lives they've crossed a line. Maybe they prayed a prayer. Maybe they were intellectual converts to someone's skillful apologetic. Maybe they truly felt God's presence in a worship service. But that was then. Perhaps they still attend services and even give money or time, but they're kinda 'in on a technicality,' like my visit to Jasper. Just enough to have the bases covered.
A rich man once came to Jesus. To read his spiritual resumé, he was more than just 'in.' He had church cred. But obviously there was some nagging doubt. He went to Jesus to make sure he truly did have all the bases covered. So Jesus throws him the option of doing what Peter and John and the rest of The Twelve did; the option of ditching job and possessions and becoming one of his followers. It's the same "Come follow me" invitation; he's giving the guy the option of becoming a late addition to the team, a 13th disciple. (see Mark 10 and Luke 18.)
But in that moment the man comes face to face with his true priorities. He walks away. A day later, a week later, a month later, if you were to ask him, what would he say is his true spiritual condition?
I think if he was honest he'd say, "Jesus showed me that my heart wasn't truly invested the way it may have appeared. If I'm in, I'm in on a technicality."
Jesus is looking for people who will sign up to be "all in."
Paul & Ruth Wilkinson live in southern Ontario where, on a clear day, you still can't see any mountains. Paul blogs at Thinking out Loud.
Welcome to Blogapalooza.
My Wife: Sarah Apperson
Sarah and I met in 1994 at a YWAM DTS. We were engaged a few months later and shortly after that we were married. Sarah is a passionate worshiper and has written scores of songs reflecting her love for the Lord. She currently leads our worship at Main Street Christian Fellowship and takes care of our 2 kids.
Coping or Overcoming?
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Ephesians 1:3
I have recently been reflecting on what it means to inherit “every spiritual blessing in Christ.” After studying the Scriptures, I am confident that it truly means just what it says: everything that we need to live whole and fruitful lives has been made accessible to us through Jesus. “For we have come to share in Christ, if we hold our original confidence firm to the end.” Hebrews 3:15
In the midst of a stressful day, when I am tired from nursing a fussy baby the night before, frustrated by my daughter's difficult Social Studies assignment, overwhelmed by the endless piles of laundry, and unable to nap because the dog won't quit barking, I am tempted to give in to the feelings of helplessness pervading my soul. I want to cry a bit, then call a friend and dump on them until they join my pity party. I can't cope with this, I think to myself. But suddenly I hear a quiet whisper—so quiet I have to silence the negative thoughts so I can hear it: “You aren't called to cope, child. You are called to live abundantly! You're called to be an overcomer! Coping is for those who think they are strong, but you are meant to depend on me in your weakness.”
One of Paul's prayers for the Ephesians was “that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, and that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power... to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” (Eph. 3:16-19)
God knows what resources I need so that I can have joy and peace each day. He has already made provision for me, through Jesus Christ. If I am experiencing negative feelings, He has made a way for me to rise above them and walk in a higher realm: “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly...” Colossians 3:15
The epistles are full of commands such as “clothe yourself with holiness,” “put on Christ,” “walk in Him,” “live by the Spirit,” “seek the things that are above,” “put to death what is earthly in you... .” No matter how we feel, we may live as victorious children of God. But it is up to us to make the determination to allow the Spirit of God to do His work in us. He has provided the wardrobe, but we need to acknowledge our need, receive the gift, and put the clothes on!
Welcome to Blogapalooza.
I first came across Fred von Kamecke via another blog I read regularly. Fred's book Busted had just been released. After ordering and reading the book I was blown away. Fred had written THE BEST book on aplogetics I have ever read. Fred was one of my guests on 5 Questions with... and participated, in conjunction with Zondervan, a massive book giveaway on this very blog. Fred von Kamecke is an assistant pastor at The Chapel of Lake County, Illinois. So grab a cup of coffee, enjoy Fred's post and then go check out his book!
As I sat with some neighbors on a cool night, gathered around the warm embers of a campfire, the conversation drifted toward how people generally get what’s coming to them, or “What goes around comes around.” One neighbor said it was karma and that karma is in the Bible. It wasn’t the time for a discussion about comparative religions and biblical theology, so I didn’t pursue it. But it did get me thinking.
By thinking that karma is in the Bible, I think my neighbor had “sowing and reaping” in mind. Jesus once said, while contemplating the opportunities in Samaria, “the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true” (John 4:37 NIV). Paul reminded the Corinthians about their pledge, but warned, “Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously” (2 Corinthians 9:6). And elsewhere he said: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life” (Galatians 6:7-8).
So sowing and reaping is clearly biblical, but does it really square with karma? How are they alike? How are they different?
As for how they’re alike, both karma and sowing and reaping share the idea of getting what’s coming to you, whether good or bad. Your actions return to you. This similarity leaves people with the impression that they are really the same thing, but that just isn’t so.
Now, as for their differences, karma is a major feature in Hinduism. In Hinduism, God isn’t a person, but rather an “It,” an impersonal force called Brahman. All that there is, is Brahman. Brahman didn’t create the universe; Brahman is the universe. All of the galaxies, spirits, gods and goddesses, mountains, rocks, bugs, and plants — and yes, people — all are merely visible expressions of the mysterious one, Brahman.
The problem, according to Hinduism, is that we’ve forgotten our true identity, and it takes several lifetimes to realize it and reach enlightenment. Until then, we’re stuck in the wheel of reincarnation — a seemingly endless cycle of birth, death, rebirth, death, etc. As we go about our lives, the things we do (or fail to do) begin to accrue to our karma account. If you are good and generous, you’ll be rewarded in the next life. If you’re an ornery cuss in this life, you’re going to get nailed in the next. That’s why some Hindus get so irritated with Christians trying to help the destitute on the streets of Calcutta. The starving, blind, and maimed widow left begging for scraps is just working out her bad karma from a past life. Don’t help her or you’ll just mess up the process. Karma, you see, is a matter of fate. You get what’s coming to you — period.
This brings us to another important difference. Between birth and death, karma has no room for mercy, grace, compassion, love, or forgiveness. While we’re at it, since all is Brahman (the one overarching reality), then all suffering, sin, and death are ultimately illusions. They are all the mysterious outworkings of the reality that lies behind our muddled lives.
The idea of sowing and reaping is very different because the biblical context is distinct from Hinduism. First of all, God is personal and distinct from his creation. Sin and death are realities, as seen in the long run of a very bloody history in an unjust world going increasingly mad. Sin is running amok. We are not born with the baggage of previous lives; we’re simply born in sin. We also don’t have endless chances to get it right. We’re each given one shot at life, and then comes judgment.
Now we’re ready for the biggest difference of all: Because of Jesus, we can be forgiven in this life, and reap the benefits of that change in this life, and further enjoy this blessedness beyond our death and into eternity. There can still be, and often are, earthly repercussions and consequences of the sinful things we’ve done. But it doesn’t matter what we’ve done, how horrible, or for how long. When we come to Jesus in genuine faith, he forgives all our sins.
Yes, we’ll reap what we sow, but God gives us the chance to start planting different seeds for a different harvest. That’s why Paul warned the Christians in Galatia to stop sowing to their sinful nature (with its harvest of certain destruction) and to start sowing a different seed. The new goal is to live in such a way that reaps a harvest of spiritual fruit — a life that brings a smile to the heart of the Holy Spirit.
Welcome to Blogapalooza.
I met Dawn and her husband Tim after moving to Smithers in 2004. I first met them at the local Baptist church. After a season, God brought them back into our lives and they have since become dear friends. I have watched their journey the last couple years and I see how God has been moving and working in their lives. Recently Dawn started her own blog, one I have made a point of adding to my daily readings. She is real. She speaks from the heart. I am blessed she agreed to write for Blogapalooza. Read her piece and then go bookmark her blog.
I would like to thank Rick for having me share in his Blogapalooza! What an honor! Hope you're having fun on your trip.
As well, I would like to thank you for dropping by! If you stop by my blog later, please feel free to browse my About Me section as well as my archives... I've been on a journey, and thought I'd invite you along.
Okay, and now for today...
Do you believe that you matter? To your family? Your boss? Your co-workers? Your community? Have you ever found yourself believing that nobody thinks you matter? That even you don't believe you matter? What about feeling unappreciated? Taken for granted? Useless? Worthless? These thoughts, which became beliefs, that I have found going round-and-round-and-round in my head lately. I believed that, as a child, I didn't matter in decision making... that my opinion didn't count, that the questions I asked went unanswered.
When Tim and I were married (24 years ago next month), I let it be known that I mattered... at least, until I realized that I didn't believe it any more. I knew that while the children were small, the things I did were necessary for us and them to be healthy. Since the kids are now 20 and 17, I have found myself thinking that if I didn't do a household duty (laundry, clean house, do dishes...) and they didn't complain, that I wouldn't bother doing them. Nagging wasn't working. When I did do the chores, it went without appreciation... "thanks" wasn't cutting it for doing a week's worth of laundry.
After talking these kinds of things out with my clinician, I was advised to hold a family meeting regarding housework. Please realize, although I am not employed right now, I don't plan to stay unemployed. Please also realize that my husband is on a disability, but is still capable of doing these types of things. Also... my son is unemployed (and I don't know how long he plans to stay that way). My daughter holds 3 jobs, which I think is quite sufficient. In other words, there are 4 adults living in our household, we should be able to share the load.
I knew I needed to hold this meeting, but was challenged to have us make consequences for when we do not do our chores. After discussing this with my counselor (yes, I have 2 people I talk to regularly-each have different roles in my life) yesterday she simply said, "The going rate for housekeepers is $20/hour." That was all the ammunition I needed.
I did something I never thought I would do. I explained that I expected everyone to be home for dinner. They were! Then I presented them with a spreadsheet of daily and weekly chores that I expected done. I smiled, then explained my predicament... that I felt unappreciated and taken for granted... and, being as I am unemployed and they are adults, I am no longer their maid. I told them that I needed their help... or my fee will be $20/hour!
It took quite a while for the chart to fill up with volunteers, but it eventually did. I explained that they might have some leverage with each other also, by trading chores/days, or paying each other for doing someone elses' work. At the end of each month we will tally it all up (and collect payment in full).
How can you set your boundaries in relationships?... Where you begin believing that you matter enough, to respect yourself as much as you respect other people? Maybe it's as simple as making a chart. Maybe it's shutting the bedroom door and reading a book or taking a nap. Maybe you have to say "no".
I don't know where you're at in life. I just know that I don't want to stay burdened with beliefs that are wrong. God's Word tells me that I matter. It says that His only Son left Him to come and live on this earth... because I matter... because YOU MATTER! Jesus lived on this earth, then was crucified, died, was buried, and then rose again... for you! If you don't believe me, check out Luke 1-24. You can start by clicking here.
If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to ask either Rick (the writer of Just A Thought) or myself.
FYI, I have recently begun a daily "Five Good Things" listing on my blog Blown To Smithereens. You are welcome to check it out, add your own lists, and maybe even begin to take joy in the little things each day!
Thank you for checking out Blown To Smithereens!
Welcome to Blogapalooza.
I first came across Anne's blog via another blog I read regularly. Anne was just getting to release her book, Mad Church Disease: Surviving the Burnout Epidemic. As I began reading her blog, Flowerdust, and later her book, I was struck by her honesty, realism and compassion. Anne was one of my first guests on 5 Questions with... She is currently busy with a Ride:Well tour but gave me permission to reprint something from her archives. So grab a cup of coffee, enjoy Anne's post and then go check out her blog!
(From Jan. 25, 2010)
The Power of Words
For most of my life, I’ve been an extremely sensitive person. I also had a terribly awkward last name growing up, so it was easy to make fun of the goofy girl with big teeth and big eyes and a funny last name.
I spent a lot of my elementary school days crying alone in my room, brooding on whatever harsh words were spoken to me by my classmates.
In high school, I grew out of the big teeth (I actually quite like my teeth now), and found myself in academics and sports. I was in the National Honor Society, was identified by the Duke University talented program in the seventh grade, aced my honors classes, and excelled at basketball. Our family settled into Abilene for a few years while I was in high school and I made good friends that I still adore today. I didn’t get made fun of much then, or as I blossomed into an adult and into a couple of different careers.
My mom always prayed that I would have a sensitive heart, and now as I share it in a world where thousands can read and voice their own opinion, my skin has become soft again.
Words move me in dramatic ways – both positive, and negative.
The prayers and words of kindness from strangers elate me, and show me the voice of God through humanity. In more recent weeks, the critics have shown up on several posts, voicing their opinions as well.
I am fully supportive of everyone having the right to their own thought, and the right to voicing their own thought. I don’t ever expect everyone to agree with everything I say or do, and that’s completely fine. I’ll never delete a comment that shares a different point of view, even if it’s said in an argumentative tone.
However, I do ask you this. If you read my blog, or any others, or hear a story or meet a person and something inside you compels you to share your opinion, please consider the words you use to communicate.
It is of utmost importance that even if we take a opposing stance on an issue, we shouldn’t debate the other person’s heart, integrity, or motivation.
We are not, and can not be, the judge of that.
The power our words have can be extremely positive and uplifting, and can even push someone to grow if we communicate a different opinion in a positive manner.
Our words can also be like poison, and shrink and twist the heart and life and faith of the person with whom we disagree.
Yes, I’m a very sensitive person and there are steps on my journey that I need to take to toughen my skin and not take harsh statements so personally and deeply.
I also know I’m not the only person in the world that feels the power of words deeply.
We can do these things, and still disagree with someone.
In fact, I think that may be the only way we can properly disagree with someone.
So I had this idea, BLOGAPALOOZA. I want you to meet some new people. I asked various friends and bloggers to share with you this month on my blog. So, all through the month of June I will feature different voices. Friends, family, bloggers, authors, you'll find them all here. So make note of the schedule and check back in for BLOGAPALOOZA.
June 4: Anne Jackson, Author
June 6: Dawn Fehr, Blogger
June 8: Fred Von Kamecke, Author
June 10: Sarah Apperson, My WIfe
June 12: Paul Wilkinson, Blogger
June 14: Hanna Apperson, My Daughter
June 16: Dave Lloyd, Blogger
June 18: Stanley Groothof, Blogger
June 20: Andrew Farley, Author
Possible participants on the 22, 24th and 26th
One name I have never found is "The God Who Jumps Through Hoops." Yet it is this name that many seem to want to call Him by. You'll meet these people when they want a healing, a blessing, a relationship or something they feel they deserve or need. When God does not perform for them in their desired timing, they began to question God or become more demanding. It is not that God will not heal or bless. He does this. However, I have noticed a certain type of attitude when it comes to our wants.
I have heard people say, "If God does NOT heal me, He is a liar." Scriptures get cut down to their barest minimum and are twisted to support their version of what God should do. "Well, it says God healed their sickness but He is not healing mine!" People act as if God is a puppet on a string, here to do our bidding. However, when reading the Word, I can't find this version of God anywhere.
It boils down to a selfish attitude. We want what we want when we want it. In other words, we want to be God! He should do things our way! We want to be in charge and have God fulfill our version of life!
Yet, in the Scriptures, just as often as God healed or moved, He remained silent. He stayed His hand. He let events unfold according to His plan. I am encouraged by Hebrews faith chapter. I have heard many sermons on Hebrews Chapter 11, and they are used as proof of God's blessing and protection as we persevere and seek Him. Often overlooked are the final 5 verses of that chapter, which talk about saints being tortured, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in two, slain, destitute, afflicted and tormented! They are also praised for their faith.
So, the next time you think about demanding God move, remember that if He does, it may not be in the way you expect. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts." (Isaiah 55:9). Can you still maintain your faith if your prayers do not get answered in the way you wanted?