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Showing posts from February, 2008

Boasting or Hiding?

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ...." Galatians 6:14 NIV

In New Testament times (and both before and after) a key sign that a Gentile man had become a Jew was that he was circumcised. A little piece of skin was cut off of one of the most sensitive parts of the body. It was an outward sign of inward covenant with God.

Some Jewish Christians believed that the old covenant with its laws and rituals were binding on all new Christians, Jewish or not, and were even boasting about the numbers of those who had been circumcised because of their witness. The reason for this emphasis was because the Jews in authority were persecuting new Christians. Circumcision was a way to avoid persecution because it showed commitment to the ways of Abraham and Moses.

Do you try to hide the fact that you're a Christian? I know I have. Here in North America persecution doesn't come in the form of physical torture, imprisonment or death. This isn't what we hope …

What Goes in Must Come Out

“Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him.” By this he meant the Spirit….” John 7:38-39

I have read, heard and even talked much about the need to go to God for living water—that we are thirsty and need this water to slake our thirst—but somehow I have missed this verse. Streams of living water will flow from believers? From within us? And this living water is the Holy Spirit?

We come to Jesus thirsty and drink. As we drink, what we drink—living water, the Holy Spirit—flows out of us. We are conduits. Pipes. The Holy Spirit then, does not just pour himself into us; he also flows out from us. Does he? Does he flow out from me? How? And how would I know if he was or not? How would others know?

Might this have anything to do with what I was reading in the Bible last night? “These signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with…

Deny, Take Cross, Follow!

“If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Matthew 16:24 NIV

Oswald Chambers wrote, “Our cross is something that comes only with the peculiar relationship of a disciple to Jesus. It is the sign that we have denied our right to ourselves and are determined to manifest that we are no longer our own, we have given away forever our right to ourselves to Jesus Christ.”*

Deny our right to ourselves. What does that look like? I suspect it looks different for each believer because we all have different things that define us; different things that put a spring in our steps and different things we cling to for self-protection. I believe we must come to a point of choice: What do I want more, God or _______? And this point of choice may come more than once in our lives, each time being a critical juncture.

I can think of three such times in my life. The first was twenty-eight years ago when I returned to God after several years of not walking with him…

Total Forgiveness

“Forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us. … For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your heavenly Father will not forgive your sins.” (Matthew 6:12 NLT, 14, 15 NIV)

Total Forgiveness: When Everything in you Wants to Hold a Grudge, Point a Finger and Remember the Pain, God wants you To Lay it all Aside by R. T. Kendall

The sub-title of Total Forgiveness grabbed me. Hold a grudge? Point a Finger? Remember the pain? When it comes to my marriage, this is what I’ve done. Many times I’ve forgiven Tom—or at least I’ve meant to and said all the right words of forgiveness—but I’ve often wondered how much I have forgiven him. Lately I’ve been praying, asking God to take down the barriers I’ve built between the two of us because I don’t know how. Could the barriers be walls of unforgiveness?

I’ve pondered Tom’s amazing acceptance when I told him I struggle with same…

Don't, Don't, Do!

“…’Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!’ … Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom … but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence. … Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.” Colossians 2:21-3:2 NIV

I grew up in a church with a lot of don'ts: Don’t dance, don’t wear make-up, don’t play cards, don’t drink tea, don’t go to movies, don’t eat pork. I have don’ts in my life now too. A big one is Don’t feed my fantasy life; don’t make contact with Pearl; don’t do anything that would stir up my desire for her or for any other woman.

There is nothing wrong with rules; we need them to have an ordered society but do the don’ts above stop me from doing what I shouldn’t? Do they stop the desires? Not really. Those come unbidden. In fact, when I first walked away from Pearl and tried to follow those rules I could not. Instead, I found my desires increased. It seems to be human nature to want what is forbidden and I’ve had that in big doses.

So what is…

Law of Life or Law of Death?

“Through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:2

When I grab hold of the Spirit of God or, rather, when God’s Spirit grabs hold of me, I am filled with life. That life breaks the hold that sin and its resulting death has on me. I am set free from the power of sin and death because the power and strength of God’s life is now in me. It is far stronger than all sin and death.

When life comes, it takes over. There is no room for death and/or things that cause death. In spring the plan life bursts forth, life replacing the death of winter. The law of sin and death becomes a piece of skin cut off from the flow of life until it drops off. It’s not a matter of abandoning sin and death as much as it is choosing God and the life he offers.

As we walk in this choice of God’s Spirit and life, sin and death begin to starve from lack of nourishment and attention. Specific sins aren’t the real issue. The real issue is relationship with God. As I…

Be

I am seemingly in a dry time of life. Before Christmas I resigned from my position as leader of women’s ministries and began to look for a new church; I’ve been struggling with depression for over a year and just last week my doctor advised me to stop working for the sake of my mental health. My physical health has kept me from my daily walks. What is God doing? Where is he taking me?

It may seem like God has put me on the shelf because I’m not doing any work or service right now, but maybe he’s working on my roots to grow them and while he does, I may not bear flowers. I must wait and be patient just as Jesus told his disciples, as he was leaving for heaven, to wait in Jerusalem. We can get so caught up in doing things for God that we begin to neglect God.

Chambers writes, “Once you are rooted and grounded in Christ the greatest thing you can do is to be. Don’t try and be useful; be yourself and God will use you to further his ends.”*

Be. Not do but be. If I am filled and saturated by J…

Dominant Interest

Oswald Chambers defines “dominant interest” not as what takes up most of my time but what is revealed when I am in crisis. What do I do when my world falls apart? Where do I go? To whom or what do I turn? Where do I find the strength to go on? What is my source of hope and comfort? It is easy to glibly say, “Jesus!” and many of us do, but are we being honest with ourselves or are we giving the expected answer believing the truth of it but belying our words by what we do?

Father, saturate my whole being with you! Fill me with your Spirit! Make everything I turn to, save you, in times of trouble, prove to be empty of what I need so that I am pushed to come to you!

Habitually Dominated

“For those who are habitually dominated by the sinful nature put their minds on the things of the sinful nature, but those who are habitually dominated by the Spirit put their minds on the things of the Spirit.” Romans 8:5 Wuest

There was a time when my fantasies dominated my mind. I didn’t want them but they were there, colouring everything in my life, intruding even when I read my Bible. They ruled my life and my decisions and I wondered why it was so difficult to spend much time in God’s Word or in prayer. My mind was habitually turning to my fantasy life because it gave the illusion that I was wanted, desirable and comforted. Try as I might to break free, I could not.

Then a series of events came to change things. This is what Searching for Love is about. Someone came into my life and said I needed to stop focusing on the problem and start focusing on God and his love. Someone else walked me through steps to freedom in Christ. Another led me to a form of prayer in which I experience…

Disciple or Just a Believer?

“Any believer who truly wants to obey God will make trouble.”1 Why are Christians in China and other countries persecuted? It’s not because they believe in God. Most governments are content to let people believe what they will in the privacy of their own homes. “The reason house church Christians are arrested and imprisoned in China is because they cannot keep quiet… Do you boldly preach the truth of God’s word to sinners inside and outside your churches? If you do, you will soon find out that there is persecution wherever you are.”2

How willing am I to make trouble because of Jesus? I must admit that I have been so quiet in the workplace about my belief in and dependency on Jesus that after working a year in the job I just left (I do temp work) no one knew I was a Christian. Why? What have I been afraid of? Rejection? Being mistreated? Being thought strange? Losing my job? If I lived in China no one would be looking to arrest me because of my faith because I have done nothing to upset…

Emotional Dependency

Although he was Roman Catholic and I am Protestant, I have a great respect for Henri Nouwen. He had an understanding of God that I want and a gentleness towards imperfect others that I wish I had. I have only read two or three books of the many he has written but I hope to eventually own and read them all. The most recent I have read is actually a posthumous collection of his writings on Spiritual Direction edited into a cohesive whole.

I gained much from Spiritual Direction: Wisdom for the Long Walk of Faith but one of his personal stories in particular jumped out at me because it is so much like many of mine. Nouwen was a man of God, a priest by vocation and a scholar who taught at Yale, Harvard and Notre Dame universities but left academia to live in a communal home and be chaplain and one of the aides to the mentally handicapped who lived there.

Soon after arriving at this community he developed a very special friendship. He writes, “My friend Nathan had a surprising capability to o…

Fear and Courage

In my last post I spoke about one of my fears. As I was deciding what to write, I did a bit of a search to find out more about courage--arguably the opposite of fear. Can fear and courage co-exist? Yes! Consider these thoughts from others:

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.” Mark Twain

"Courage, also known as fortitude, is the ability to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty or intimidation… in the face of shame, scandal, and discouragement." Wikipedia

The real test of courage is in our daily lives. Or should be. The courage to speak the truth. All the time. Because lies are the biggest and most obvious sort of cowardice that all of us hide behind. The courage to speak our mind and not stay silent, simply because we are afraid that other people might not agree with us. Of course, there will be conflicting views. And of course, conflict is unpleasant. But not speaking your mind can lead to much worse unpleasantness. Anne Zaidi
Courage is bei…

Do Not Be Frightened!

“Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you suffer for what is right, you are blessed. ‘Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened.’ But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.” 1 Peter 3:13-16

I’m scared. Terrified, really. My book is on the path to publication and it won’t be long until my private life and thoughts will be splashed before everyone I know and many I don’t. Searching for Love: One Woman’s Spiritual Journey through Same-Sex Attraction. Why have I agreed to publish it if I’m so afraid? I want others to know what God can do, that he is just as real and powerful today as he was two thousand years ago and that he is still in the people-changing business. What he…

Gentleness and Respect

“Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” 1 Peter 3:15

Gentleness and respect. To the disheveled drunk, lying on the sidewalk? Yes. To the homosexual couple living across the street? Yes. To the office gossip who never has anything good to say about anyone? Yes, yes, yes!

Father, sometimes I don’t feel very gentle at all and sometimes my distain or anger gets in the way of speaking to others with respect. But you made and love everyone and who would be drawn to you if I bashed your Word over their head?. No one is able to follow and obey you until your Spirit is living in them—and even then it can be hard. Help me to remember this so that I can point to you as the sole reason for hope—for them and for me—and do so with love, gentleness and respect.

Ask!

“If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:13 NIV

I need to ask for the Holy Spirit and when I ask, my Father in heaven who knows more than any man (or woman) on earth how to give good gifts to his children will give me the Holy Spirit. If I feel a lack in my life, does that lack exist because I have failed to ask? James seems to think so. “You do not have, because you do not ask God.” (James 4:2) “Ask and it will be given to you,” Jesus says. “Everyone who asks receives.” (Matthew 7:7,8)

Do I ask only once or do I keep on asking until I have received? Jesus told the story of a widow who kept coming to the judge of her town, asking for justice. She didn’t give up asking though he kept refusing her request. In the end, he granted her what she asked and Jesus says that if an ungodly man would eventually give in to this woman’s pleas, how much more wi…

The Bible

“Men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:21

“These are the Scriptures that testify about me.” John 5:39

“All Scripture is God-breathed.” 2 Timothy 3:16

I don’t have any thoughts of my own this morning so let me share what Oswald Chambers has to say. “The key to my understanding of the Bible is not my intelligence, but personal relationship to Jesus Christ.” It is the Holy Spirit in us who makes the message clear to each of us. Without him, the Bible is just another literary work. The message in the Bible, all parts of it, is about Jesus and its meaning is to show us how to live right.

I find it interesting that when Chambers, who lived and wrote nearly a hundred years ago, talks about problems existing in the church or amongst Christians, I see that the same problems continue to be today’s problems. He says that most people like to use the Bible, not for knowing how to live but for how to prove their particular doctrines. I can remember being like that…

Controlled by…

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.” Romans 8:9 NIV

God, who am I controlled by? I still sin. I do wrong. I find some sin very attractive and appealing. If I have the Spirit of Christ in me, why is this so? And yet I know I belong to you. I am yours. You have confirmed this to me many times. Please make me yours in every way—undivided and whole.

It's Very Personal

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Galatians 2:20 NIV

We live in a very individualistic culture and sometimes I wonder how much of what God does or wants is for us corporately rather than as individual people. He calls us his bride. We are the body of Christ. These refer to us collectively—all of us being one unit if you will. I had some grand thoughts about this the past week as I was out walking, though I can’t remember now what they were.

But here Paul indicates that what Jesus did was very personal. Christ lives in me. Jesus loves me. He gave himself for me. I may be a single cell in the baby toe nail of Christ’s body and surely God is able, though we are not, to see the whole body as it is. Yet, every single cell matters to him and not only matters but he loves each one. He loves me! He died for me. He lives in me.

Thank you God that I …

Simon Zhao

The Back to Jerusalem movement began in the 1920s. From then until communism, a number of groups, independent of each other, were given the same vision of taking the gospel westward from China and pursued that vision. One western missionary in China called it “a movement of the Spirit which is irresistible.”*

When communism arrived in 1949, the movement was carried on by only a few and these few headed towards the nation’s northwest border in three groups, bringing many of the soldiers they encountered along the way to believe in Jesus. They hadn’t yet managed to leave the country before they were all arrested and put into prison. None managed to survive their sentences except for one young man, Simon Zhao.

“Simon was beaten [and often tortured] for most of the thirty-one years he spent in prison” but he never renounced Jesus. He prayed, he preached to those who would listen and he experienced God’s presence in a number of ways. By the time he was released as an elderly man in his 60s, …

He's Got it Backwards Again!

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 NIV

I’ve been sitting here in my prayer room pondering the hugeness of this truth and find it beyond comprehension. Jesus never sinned. He was never unacceptable to God. He never made a mistake. He was never off the mark. He never once violated God’s will nor was he ever offensive to God.

But God made Jesus sin. Jesus became unacceptable to God. He became the mistake, the violation, the offense that is so abhorrent to God. He wasn’t made a sin; he was made sin. He wasn’t made a representative of sin; he was made sin. This verse doesn’t even suggest that Jesus was made a sin offering*. No! Jesus was made sin. Love the sinner but hate the sin? Jesus was that sin—that which can never come into the presence of God.

Why? It seems so ludicrous. What is more ludicrous is that God did this so that we might become the righteousness of God. Say what? Not so that we could beco…

A Hundred Years Later

Hudson Taylor opened up the whole of China to the good news of Jesus Christ. Less than 50 years after his death all missionaries were forced out of China and the Chinese Christians left behind were bullied, tortured and killed. Did the Church die and Christianity wither away to nothing but a few old people clinging to their memories? NO!

The past more-than-50 years has seen a revolution that the western world, never mind the Chinese communist government, thought could never happen. The church has flourished and grown beyond all imagination. When one Chinese Christian leader was asked what he expected the growth of the Church to look like in the next 20 or 30 years, he replied that all of China would be Christian. Amazing!

Another amazing thing is taking place amongst the Christians in China. They are no longer the greatest mission field but rather are poised to become the greatest missionary sender.

I started reading a new book last night, Back to Jerusalem. Christianity began in Jerusal…

Spiritual Secrets

I’ve just finished reading Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret, a biography of that well-known missionary pioneer to China. In a time when all Protestant missionaries were huddled together in five coastal cities, Hudson’s burning desire was to go inland and reach all of China.

To do this he formed his own mission organization. Two stipulations he made was that his missionary recruits live, dress and act like the Chinese they were trying to reach in so far as following God would allow and that there was not to be any fund-raising. “By 1900 there were 750 China Inland Mission members. Four million dollars had been raised without anyone but God being asked to give, and there was no debt. Over 700 Chinese workers were connected with the mission and 13,000 Chinese believers had been baptized.”* In one three-week period in 1891 66 missionaries arrived in Shanghai for his mission alone. Others caught his vision and by the time he died in 1905, men and women from many mission organizations had no…

Sick

My gallbladder has been giving me grief since early last night, robbing me of sleep and keeping me home from work. I'm supposed to have surgery sometime in the next month but a date hasn't been slated yet. Hopefully I'll be able to post later today or tomorrow morning.

Listen and Learn!

“Listen and hear my voice; pay attention and hear what I say. When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually? Does he keep on breaking up and harrowing the soil? When he has leveled the surface, does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin? Does he not plant wheat in its place, barley in its plot and spelt in its field? His God instructs him and teaches him the right way.” Isaiah 28:23-26 NIV

Does the farmer plow continually? No! He has more work to do than that. There are steps he must follow in order to produce a crop. What is my work? What are the steps I must follow in order to complete that work? I’m not sure I know completely, yet. Write. But is there more to my work than writing? Just as God instructs the farmer and teaches him the right way to do his work, I know that God is instructing and showing me. Although the farmer may know the end result of his work—a crop of grains to harvest and turn into bread—I don’t need to know the end of mine. All I need…

The Weak and Foolish God

“… we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to Gentiles., but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than Man’s strength.” 1 Corinthians 1:23-25 NIV

Jesus is the power and wisdom of God. He is the power of God because through his death and resurrection he broke the power of sin and death. The cross was a symbol of weakness. Those who were hung on crosses were totally powerless. They had come to the end of themselves. They couldn’t shake off the flies that swarmed to their wounds. They couldn’t cover their nakedness. They couldn’t escape the heat or the sun or the cold at night. They could do nothing for themselves or for others. They couldn’t stop the grief of those who loved them. All they could do was hang there and suffer for a long time.

Jesus is the wisdom of God. “For the foolishness of God is wiser …

Separation

“No one serving as a soldier gets involved in civilian affairs—he wants to please his commanding officer.” 2 Timothy 2:4 NIV

“If a man or woman wants to make a special vow, a vow of separation to the Lord as a Nazirite, he must abstain from wine and other fermented drink and must not drink vinegar made from wine or from other fermented drink. He must not drink grape juice or eat grapes or raisins.” Numbers 6:2,3 NIV

Oswald Chambers said to a group of seminary students, “A worker has to disentangle himself from many things that would advantage and develop him but which would turn him aside from being broken bread and poured out wine in his Lord’s hands.”*

Holiness means set apart and God tells us to be holy. How? What are we set apart from? We are to live a life that is pleasing to God and that often sets us apart from others but is this the only way? Are we to separate ourselves only from evil? Might there be good things we are also to be separate from?

God, I don’t have answers t…

Hardship and Joy

“Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.” 2 Timothy 2:3 NIV

Yesterday, I spoke of things that I gave up in order to follow God. Each time it was incredibly difficult to make the choice. I fought tooth and nail with God, especially the first two I listed, because I couldn't see how giving them up and choosing the path God was directing me to could bring me anything but misery and pain. As for getting up early in the morning to come to my prayer room, I've always wanted to be able to do that but it seemed impossible to give up the sleep I seemed to never get enough of.

Yes, in each case I made a conscious choice for what seemed to be incredible hardship however, I want you to know that every single time, God turned the pain into sweet joy. Twenty-eight years after choosing to return to my husband, things are better than they have ever been and continue to get even better.

When I chose to leave Pearl, I was raging angry at God for about a week for not lett…