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Category Archives: The Journey

Hope Deferred

Hope deferred makes the heart sick.

Delayed promises, unfulfilled dreams, missed expectations. The things we humans hope for yet trust God that He has our best in mind and our puny hopes are replaced with His grand plans.

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Broken promises, disingenuity, deception. These are NOT words associated with a perfect heavenly Father. They are also not words and phrases one would expect to hear connected with God’s Church, yet today we see it still in many areas.

Why?

I believe one reason is that we’re in the last of days. No doubt our enemy, satan, knows this. Using every tactic he’s honed he desires to get the Church off track. His game plan is to get Christians focused on their belly buttons or the lint in someone else’s… Discourage believers with the heart-sickness of broken dreams… Cultivate Pastors and Elders deluded with authority, who forget servanthood and become like the Pharisees of old. He’d like to convince regular church goers that their weekday sins somehow fly under the radar and get as many folks believing they are Christian as if it is the same as “American” or “Canadian” while  being nothing remotely Christ-like.

Christ’s followers expect to be a fighter in a battle, not a potato on a couch. We’re promised tribulation, we’re asked to die to ourselves. We’re promised victory and great reward when we endure to the end. Somehow, though, it’s easier when the battle is against evil, against injustice outside the church walls. It’s harder when we find ourselves wounded by our own family. Yet isn’t our response to be the same? Keep our eyes on Christ, draw close to Him, count on Him for our justice either now or later, count on Him for our joy in spite of the pain.

I’m certainly not saying that’s easy. I think it’s one of the hardest things to do. Natural emotions are real. God gave us those emotions and doesn’t begrudge us when we experience them. My heroes in the faith have experienced deep emotions as a result of brother- or sister-inflicted wounds yet instead of retaliation they seek God and a trusted confident to work through the pain and arrive at a place of healing and wholeness.

Life is messy, inside and outside of the Church. I’ll take the messiness with a loving Father, Brother, and Helper to guide and comfort me over messiness with no hope and no support. This time on earth is a blink of an eye compared to eternity, what will be our response to injustice (inside and outside the church) and the call of God to die to ourselves?

Put on the “whole armor” friends — I don’t think the ride is going to get any smoother. 🙂

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2013 in Relationships, The Church, The Journey

 

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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)

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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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Suffering

I have friends who have been without work for months, some wonder if homelessness is in their future.

I have friends who have been struck by cancer — one went undiagnosed for years, another whose five-year old is battling Leukemia, others with the “regular” kind of cancer cruelty…

Last week a friend of a friend’s child was abducted. They are frantically searching.

A few days ago my friend, a young single mom, emailed to say her house was broken into, precious things stolen, and her young children are traumatized.

Last month some folks were driving home from a retreat and their vans were involved in a horrific fatal highway accident that killed over 20 people. I met a woman at the airport this week whose granddaughter with her was in a car accident several days ago (drunk driver) and still very emotional.

An acquaintance is struggling with a crisis that if known fully might cause domestic violence.

What’s up? Doesn’t God care? If you follow Him, doesn’t He protect you from suffering? Maybe people like Joel Olsteen and Joyce Meyer would have you believe that. (I think Western Christians are about the only ones who do…) But I read a different Gospel. It’s not one where God desires that His followers suffer without reason, but is one that guarantees growth, provision, and the experience of a deeper abiding love when the suffering does come. The God I serve says, “I have spoken these things to you so that you shall have peace in me. You shall have suffering in the world, but take heart, I have overcome the world.”

Suffering belongs to the discipline of all Christ’s followers (Romans 8:172 Corinthians 1:7Galatians 3:4Philippians 3:101 Thessalonians 2:22 Thessalonians 1:52 Timothy 2:122 Timothy 3:12James 5:101 Peter 2:201 Peter 3:14, 17; 4:1, 13, 16; 5:10) and this fellowship in suffering unites us with the saints of God in all times (James 5:10). It is actually a fellowship with the Lord Himself (Philippians 3:10), who uses this discipline to mold us more and more according to His character.

“The rain falls on the just and the unjust.” We don’t like it and don’t always understand it, but it’s true. We see justice perverted, mean people prospering, and good people experiencing hardship upon hardship. But what we see is so very temporary. And God sees so much more. One day justice WILL be served, and suffering WILL end for those who follow Christ, and hurting believers WILL be healed and happy. And God will get the glory. All of it.

So we run to the Rock that is higher than us, we abide in the shelter of His wing, we feed on every word of God written for our benefit, we encourage one another, we intercede for each other, we comfort our hurting friends, and we, in turn, are comforted.

We give thanks. We praise Him in the storm. We watch as He turns mourning to rejoicing. We learn to find joy even between the tears. We grow more into His likeness day by day, and we give Him all the glory.

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Assurance, Prayer, Suffering, The Journey

 

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For Your Consideration 3.17.12

I love the blogs to which I subscribe and the bloggers who take the time to write them. Here are some good and challenging reads this lovely Saturday afternoon for your consideration and edification:

I read Stephen Altrogge’s blog yesterday morning, Churches Are Going to Be Messy Places, and agree 100%. Also reading the book, Glorious Mess by Mike Howerton, which clearly shows that messy churches are filled with messy people. I like that this is NOT an excuse for believers to avoid committing to a local church. My supported opinion: There is NO excuse for a believer to avoid becoming part of a local church AND getting there regularly! In this post by Phil Johnson, Providence is Sweet, he tells a story that illustrates one more reason to be connected to the body of Christ.

Earlier this week I posted a few links discussing the Kony 2012 controversy. I’ve updated it with a couple of new links that are very compelling. Here is the post on my other blog, Collect Yourself.

Heath Lambert lays out a most excellent pattern for holding one another accountable without harshness in Gracious Candor: A Tutorial in Speaking Truth in Love.

This an older post by John Piper, but a topic that has been my focus for a few months, so thought I’d share here: How to Glorify God at Work.

Finally, since it’s St. Patrick’s Day, here is a great post by Mark Driscoll on the REAL Patrick’s life–it’s nothing like the advertisements (go figure!): Happy Greatest Missionary Who Ever Lived Day!

 
 

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For Your Consideration 1.24.12

Six or seven inches from OK-to-kill to murder if you kill her… Many blogs and articles have been posted this past week due to the infamous Roe vs. Wade ruling 39 years ago. Justin Taylor posts one of the best in Attacks on Incremental Pro-Life Legislation: Unfair and Dangerous.

Do we really trust God in all situations? Mark Altrogge says, “We’re funny creatures, us humans. We ask our heavenly Father to provide for us then we try to figure out how he’s going to do it,” in his post, Don’t Rent That Clown Suit Just Yet…

If you are a parent, this is a must-read from Barnabas Piper: Vehicle, Obstacle, or Passenger?

And if you are a women with regrets, you have to read this — Kristina Haury trusted God in a very difficult situation and shares how He responded. Get out your tissue — she posts on Gracefull WomenGod’s Grace in My Great Loss Part One and Part Two.

If you missed my FB post of this movie trailer, it’s worth the watch: 200 Million Girls Missing in the World Today. Can you say “gendercide”?

An then sometimes, you just gotta laugh. Mark also offers a great alternative to the lyrics of “American Pie” with “Bye, Bye Mrs. Chicken Pot Pie.”  🙂

 

~ Blessings on your week!

 

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2012 in Current Events, The Journey

 

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Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

‎”Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow lights for fools the way to dusty death.” ~Shakespeare

“Please don’t say anything to me about tomorrow. Tomorrow is the word the Bible does not know. If you can find me any place in the Scriptures where the Holy Spirit of God says ‘tomorrow.’ I will step down from this pulpit and never step into it, or any other pulpit, for as long as I live. The Holy Spirit’s word is the word ‘today.'”             ~ Bruce Thielemann

We just completed session four in our “not a fan” book/DVD study. The key passage was Luke 9:57-62 where Jesus calls three different people to follow Him but each has something else to do first. They want to follow Him, but not right now. Maybe tomorrow. The second one, for instance, wanted to wait until his parents grew old and died and he collected his inheritance. Then he’d follow. The third one wanted to get his party on first.

What about us? After work isn’t so demanding, I’ll follow. When I’ve got my financial ducks in a row, maybe then. Once I’ve sowed my wild oats and settle down, then I’ll follow. But God says the time is now. He says, today if you hear His voice…

I’ve wasted a good many “today’s” because I said, “tomorrow.” Life is short—a breath. In Don’t Waste Your Life, John Piper says:

“We waste our lives when we do not pray and think and dream and plan and work toward magnifying God in all spheres of life. God created us for this: to live our lives in a way that makes him look more like the greatness and the beauty and the infinite worth that he really is. . . . .Life is wasted is we do not grasp the glory of the cross, cherish it for the treasure that it is, and cleave to it as the highest price of every pleasure and the deepest comfort in every pain. . . . The opposite of wasting your life is living life by a single God-exalting, soul-satisfying passion. the well-lived life must be God-exalting and soul-satisfying because that is why God created us. . . .What a tragic waste when people turn away from the Calvary road of love and suffering. All the riches of the glory of God in Christ are on that road. All the sweetest fellowship with Jesus is there. All the treasures of assurance. All the ecstasies of joy. All the clearest sightings of eternity. All the noblest camaraderie. All the humblest affections. All the most tender acts of forgiving kindness. All the deepest discoveries of God’s Word. All the most earnest prayers. They are all on the Calvary road where Jesus walks with his people. Take up your cross and follow Jesus. On this road, and this road alone, life is Christ and death is gain. Life on every other road is wasted.”

My prayer is to be a “today person” and remove ‘tomorrow’ from my thoughts and words. To not look back on the second half of my life and feel that it was wasted. Amen.

 
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Posted by on January 21, 2012 in God's Word, Priorities, Purpose, The Cross, The Journey

 

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