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Aside

My sister wrote a wonderful piece on SisterBlog that fits here: A little glimpse into the differences in worship between the typical American experience and those living and serving in other countries. Here is an excerpt:

Being with these women was inspiring to me on so many levels, so many more than I have time to delve into here. I think the most inspiring part was in the stark contrast between their hunger for the experiencing of worship together as sisters in Christ, and our North American complacency at times. In my world (and as is the case with most who live in America), you can find a place to worship corporately at any given hour of any given day. Homes, churches, Bible studies, colleges, youth groups, worship concerts, retreats…the list is endless. It’s a veritable smorgasbord of corporate worship–available any time, anywhere. This is not so for these precious friends of mine in eastern Europe. They gather together once, maybe twice each year, with other missionaries serving Josiah Venture in various countries throughout the eastern block. And when they do gather, time is at a premium. They know the days and hours are limited, and it’s obvious they don’t intend to waste a moment of it.

Read the post here: http://sisterblog.wordpress.com/2013/06/23/heart-of-worship/

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Heart of Worship

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2013 in The Heart, Worship

 

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I See That Hand

How does the typical American Christian “get saved”?

My first encounter with God was at the age of seven. Angela, my best friend from elementary school invited me to Vacation Bible School that summer. During the week the Pastor came into our little class and told us about Jesus. I was riveted. He asked if any of us would like to invite Jesus into our hearts. Even at that young age I was absolutely convinced Jesus was Someone I was drastically in need of. I raised my hand.

We went to the Pastor’s office and he told us about the decision we were about to make. Then we prayed a little prayer, repeating after him, and at that moment I became a member of the family of God.

Or did I?

Some would say it takes more than a simple prayer to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. They cite scriptures like, “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling,” “The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls,” “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter,” and “He who overcomes will thus be clothed in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.”

But there is plenty of evidence for the simple act of humbling ourselves, confessing that we’re totally missing the mark and in need of a Savior, and acknowledging that Jesus Christ is the Son of God: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” “For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved,” and “All who confess that Jesus is the Son of God have God living in them, and they live in God.”

I believe there is the moment of stark realization of our state of affairs, our separation from God and heart-desperation for Jesus’s grace and mercy. I also believe that the act believing and confessing is just the beginning: “Faith without works is dead.” “You will know them by their fruit.” Only God knows the heart, but I question whether repeating a prayer after someone, raising your hand or walking the aisle of the church, then walking out the door to the same old life results in salvation. Do we see this practice modeled in the Bible? Do we see this modeled anywhere else on earth but “developed Christian nations”? Isn’t it rather about transformation?

Don’t get me wrong: I am not dissing the invitation to seekers in a church service — not at all! — I am asking if the American church has invented a short-cut to salvation. Do we “count the cost”? Do we talk about dying to self? Do we take up our cross and follow Him?

Here is the truth, Christ’s words from John chapter 15: “I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. …. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. …. Apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. …. When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!”

I am convinced I received salvation that summer day as a young child. I haven’t always produced fruit, I have been pruned, and at times I may have even been in danger of being severed from the vine. Even now I question my effectiveness for the kingdom of God. But the sustaining theme and refrain of my life has been the enduring conviction that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and He alone holds the keys to redemption.

Yet, as an American Christian I have to ask myself: Am I slow to produce fruit or quick today to obey His words? What about you?

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2011 in Belief, God's Word, Jesus, Salvation, The Heart

 

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Leftover Scraps of Time

Awhile back I posted a blog on this topic on Collect Yourself. It is still something I struggle with.

I think pretty much everyone can relate. Mothers with young children, managers in corporate America working TOO many hours, fathers working hard at both making a living and raising a family, volunteer workers giving until it seems the tank has run dry. Then what is left for what’s most most important?

What has your attention? Where do you spend most of your time? What or who gets your first and your best? If actions speak louder than words, have you thought about your priorities based on your daily activities? These questions are as probing and relevant to me as anyone I know.

The Message paraphrase of Matthew 6:21 says it well: “Don’t hoard treasure down here where it gets eaten by moths and corroded by rust or—worse!—stolen by burglars. Stockpile treasure in heaven, where it’s safe from moth and rust and burglars. It’s obvious, isn’t it? The place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being.”

SO. Where DO we put our time, our priorities, our money, our focus, our first and best, our treasure? And who gets the leftovers, if there IS anything left over?

It’s a good question to ask on fairly regular basis.

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2011 in Priorities, Purpose

 

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My Wicked Heart

This is one of my favorite “refresh” passages:

“Blessed are those who trust in the Lord
      and have made the Lord their hope and confidence.
 They are like trees planted along a riverbank,
      with roots that reach deep into the water.
 Such trees are not bothered by the heat
      or worried by long months of drought.
 Their leaves stay green,
      and they never stop producing fruit.”

Did you know that is immediately followed by this?

“The human heart is the most deceitful of all things,
      and desperately wicked.
      Who really knows how bad it is?
 But I, the Lord, search all hearts
      and examine secret motives.
   I give all people their due rewards,
      according to what their actions deserve.”

I posted the following comments a few years ago on Collect Yourself. I think it’s still true:

The more I study Christ, grow in my understanding of what it means to follow Him, look closely at those whose lives I would like to emulate, the more I become aware of my wicked heart.

Not that my heart is growing more wicked, I think it’s always been just about this degree of wicked. I think it is just that I am seeing into its depths more clearly, or perhaps more deeply. I am not really liking what I see. At all.

I know growing a relationship with Jesus is a process. And processes take time. And there are layers. Like onions. And sometimes smelly like onions, too. So just when I think I’ve gotten victory over one thing, here comes another. Or sometimes a deeper evaluation of the same thing. Groan.

I used to think this was God’s fault. And of course it is, but I mean I used to think He was doing this to show me how wicked I am, how unworthy, how depraved a heart I have. And of course “a good Christian girl” feels guilt. All the time. Right? So there I was going from glory-to-glory but feeling actually like going from guilt-to-deeper-guilt. Purification didn’t seem so pure. It seemed ugly. And I was a constant failure.

But now I think that it is simply God gently peeling away the rotten outer layers. Maybe carving off a bruised spot on the apple, chipping away the rust on the pot. So maybe it’s not painless, and maybe it’s not always fun, but I am starting to believe that it is what it is and I don’t need to feel any way about it at all, other than to know this is part of the process and, while on this earth, I can simply submit to the process, and let it be. I can extend grace to myself and not a guilt trip. I can trust in God’s love for me – that He does this to make me a better human being, more fit for His kingdom, more suited to carry out whatever it is He has for me to do here. I can turn off the voice, which is not His, that says I am a total screw-up.

I read this the other day, and I believe it’s true: “I will love God because He first loved me. I will obey God because I love God. But if I cannot accept God’s love, I cannot love Him in return, and I cannot obey Him. Self-discipline will never make us feel righteous or clean; accepting God’s love will. The ability to accept God’s unconditional grace and ferocious love is all the fuel we need to obey Him in return. Accepting God’s kindness and free love is something the devil does not want us to do. If we hear, in our inner ear, a voice saying we are failures, we are losers, we will never amount to anything, this is the voice of Satan trying to convince the bridge that the groom does not love her. This is not the voice of God. God woos us with kindness, He changes our character with His love.” 1

Accepting God’s love and loving Him in return is the cure for the curse of the ever-present wicked heart.

And who wouldn’t a life lived like one of those lovely trees mentioned above?

1 From Blue Like Jazz, by Donald Miller
 
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Posted by on February 22, 2011 in The Heart

 

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