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Monthly Archives: December 2012

Ch-ch-ch-changes

With God, there is neither turning nor shifting of shadow. He does not change. With us humans, however, there is change galore. Some of us crave it (and in its absence will rearrange the livingroom furniture) and some of us hate it (resisting with every fiber of our being the slightest change to the routine we have come to cherish). But there is something to be said about balance when it comes to change.

God calls us to change in many ways. When He calls us to repent He calls us to change our mind and walk the other way. When He calls us to be transformed into the image of His Son, He calls us to change the way we think and act. We don’t do these things on our own, of course, but by the power of His Spirit. Christ followers don’t disagree with these changes — they are required processes for every believer. Yet we do seem to get quite agitated when faced with external change initiated by others or even circumstances. We bristle if we do not understand the reason for the change and fold our arms in defiance if we disagree with it.

This happens in American churches every day. I’ve seen it often since I became a Christian in 1968. Looking back, some of the changes are laughable: When the traditional church in which I grew up had the wooden pews padded, and when the first electric guitar was played in a Sunday service.(OH! the talk…!) Some changes were concerning, like the man-made rules introduced left and right at a church I attended for a few years in my early 20’s. And some were necessary, like hard decisions required to deal with suffering finances or striving to be a relevant voice to a spiritually dying community.

My church is going through a pretty big change right now. Friends are dealing with it in very different ways. My small group of women has been discussing the thoughtfulness and balance required to properly approach and navigate change that isn’t easily understood. Since we’re in the midst of the journey these aren’t complete answers, but rather steps to consider when dealing with change that may introduce discomfort. Here are some things we’ve been discussing:

  1. Pray. This counsel can be applied in any situation and should be the first any of us do when we don’t understand something or seek to understand something. If we haven’t spent a good amount of time talking to God about the situation, we don’t have the right to speak much about it to others.
  2. Ask. Avoid hypotheses and speculation and conversation that may stir up strife. Go straight to someone who has the answer (after step one above, of course!) and ask, with humility and sincerity. Then listen well. Continue the dialog if necessary.
  3. Wait. Recognize that sometimes the answers aren’t complete or fully known, especially when change is fresh. Be patient, leaders are often still working through how to respond and manage the change themselves. Give them time to seek God and make decisions.
  4. Watch (Your Mouth). Avoid whining, complaining, jumping to conclusions, gossiping, or bad-mouthing God’s elect. This produces a bitterness in your own heart while causing dissention and division. We are called to be one as God is One. Loving each other is a sign we are His. Not loving is a sign we are the Devil’s. Hating a brother or sister is a serious sin.
  5. Help. Find out how you can support the change, be involved in a ministry, meet a need, make new friends. Being active members of the body enables us to be more patient, see more clearly, love more deeply, and mature more rapidly.
  6. Pray (Some More!). Perhaps it is time for you to move on to another ministry or church family. Let God be the One to direct you in that decision, not your current discomfort. Is there a clear word to go or stay? Listen. Until there is a clear conviction in your heart, see #3 and continue to pray.

My story: I know beyond a shadow of a doubt I am called specifically to the church I now attend — it wasn’t my own decision. This was several years ago. Since that time there have been a couple rough patches. Very close friends have left. At one point a friend encouraged me to join her in an exodus. I listen to my close friends and take their admonishment seriously, but God has the final word. He did not then, nor has He yet, prompted me to leave this family. Many things are changing. Some things I don’t yet understand. Many faces are different, I am missing familiar brothers and sisters and meeting new ones, but this is my family. And as long as it is called “today” I will be encouraged and encourage my friends.

Young Woman Facing the Sky

So, turn and face the change.

What works best for you when you are dealing with change?

 

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Posted by on December 23, 2012 in The Church, The Journey

 

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Reading the Word

Like newborn babies, thirst for the pure milk of the word so that by it you may grow in your salvation. (1 Peter 2:2)

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16)

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)

Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law. (Psalm 119:18)

MP900384755

There are many, many believers throughout the world who wished they had even a page of the Bibles we so take for granted in the West. I can’t count the number of Bibles I have, let alone the access to online versions, commentaries, concordances, libraries and more. Do we take for granted the very word of God or do we crave it like food — understanding that we do not live by bread alone but by every word that comes from God’s mouth? (Matthew and Luke 4:4) Do we long for the word of God like a thirsty soul in the desert?

In America, with all our technology, it is easier than ever to read the Bible daily and the whole Bible once or twice a year. It’s a good habit to have because God’s word does not return void — it accomplishes what He pleases (Isaiah 55:11). We’re nearing the first of a new year. May I encourage you to select a reading plan that will take you through the entire Bible (maybe twice) in this coming year? There are SO many to choose from!

This year I read the Bible chronologically. It was very cool to read it roughly in the order it was written — to read Psalms that David wrote next to the actual events he was living, and to read the book of Acts interspersed with the letters to the various churches visited. This year I have selected The Four Streams Bible Reading Plan which will go through the New Testament four times, the Old Testament once, Psalms twice, and Proverbs four times by the end of the year.

I love YouVersion and YouVersion for Mobile which has hundreds of versions in 100+ different languages.You can be reminded of your daily reading, share with friends, post to Twitter or Facebook, read your plan in the translation of your choice (I am going to read my 2013 plan using The Message this time). There are also Christmas and Advent plans that range from three days to one month to prepare your heart for our annual celebration of the greatest Gift ever.

The grass withers and the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in God's Word, Priorities, The Journey

 

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Tragedy. Angst. Evil. Justice. Love.

I have no wisdom in response to today’s senseless violence and loss of life at the little elementary schools in Connecticut and central China (nor the daily violence in the middle east, nor the hideous and silent suffering of millions of women and children enslaved this very moment across the world and in our own neighborhoods…) but I’ve been reading a lot, and here are some words from much wiser individuals…

An Insufficient Answer to the Shooting in Connecticut

Three Ways Christians Should Respond to the Horror of a Broken World

Responding to the Problem of Evil

A Day for Hatred

Where Was God?

Rachel Weeping for Her Children

A Lesson for All from Newton

Implosion update: The demons of violence are on the loose in America. But why? And where do we go from here?

I wish I could hug a mom whose arms are empty tonight. I wish I could hug a mom whose child is safe in bed and she wonders why hers was spared. I wish I could hug the child whose mom’s arms will no longer hold them in this world and I wish I could save every single woman and child who are being held against their will, in slavery for someone else’s sick “pleasure.” Yet I know that the angst I feel is but a drop in the bucket to what my Father feels — and His justice will prevail because He is a God of love — He IS love. And tonight He is surely grieved about our fallen state yet loving on those little Kindergartners who are in His wonderful arms forever.

Boy holding onto his mother

Post Script: A friend just posted this on Facebook — a good resource for comforting those grieving the loss of a child:

Dealing With Grief: Five Things NOT to Say and Five Things to Say In a Trauma Involving Children

And here is a very good book on losing on a child written by parents who lived it:

Written in Tears: A Grieving Father’s Journey Through Psalm 103

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2012 in Current Events, Sin, Suffering

 

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