Archive for March, 2011

Love is…

Posted: March 31, 2011 in Christian Living
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Jesus says in John 14:15 “If you love me, keep my commands.” Sounds like simple logic to me. As simple as it sounds, the concept kind of goes against a lot of the current thoughts on love though. We want love to be some sort of pretty thing, where our feelings lead us on paths of wonderment. We cast aside our logic and reasoning for the warm, fuzzy feelings and goofy amorous befuddlement. It sounds great, right? We can get caught up in the imagery of love, and forget that love is not always poetically sweet and emotionally soothing. Love can be hard, it can be a struggle. Love can even be, dare I say it, boring and monotonous at times.

Back to the words of Christ. “If you love me, keep my commands.” Does that seem to speak to the poetic, emotional, wondrous feeling of love that usually bounces around our minds? I don’t know about you, but the love Jesus talks about seems to reach out to something deeper, something more substantial. The love Jesus embodies speaks to a higher level of devotion. Jesus speaks of a love most of us have never even thought of, let alone attempted. Jesus says that love puts others ahead of oneself. If we love others, we are to serve them and put them first. If we love Jesus, we are to serve Him and put Him first. We are to keep His commands.

It makes sense if you really think about it. If you believe that Christ is who He says He is, why would you put yourself before Him? If you believe that He is above all things, and that He knows what is best, why would you even think about disobeying Him? If you believe that He is looking out for you, and that He cares for you, and that He is able to provide whatever you need to accomplish anything He asks of you, why wouldn’t you obey Him?

Jesus said that narrow is the road that leads to life. Maybe that’s because it is hard to love like He calls us to love? Maybe it’s too hard to keep His commands? Maybe we just love ourselves too much and don’t want to give up control? Whatever the reason, we need to put Him first. It is our biggest act of love, and our greatest act of worship.

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I am reading through the Bible again, and I’m in Leviticus right now. It’s a great book, but one that causes a lot of people to give up on their “Bible in a Year” plan. It contains a lot of specifics and rituals that bog people down, but if you can back away from the rituals, themselves, and see the big picture, a lot can be gleaned from the text. If you want, you can check out my last post on Leviticus 9 here.

Anyway, on to Leviticus 13. The stuff that has to happen in the lives of people in the Old Testament is pretty, how should I put it…. intricate. The rules to follow, the painstakingly precise measurements and strict guidelines, seem almost impossible to get right. Again, just like in Leviticus 9, I am glad I don’t have to do these things to follow God. But, also like Leviticus 9, I believe that there are principles and ideas that transcend the strict guidelines, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today.

In Leviticus 13 God gives Moses and Aaron the steps to take for determining the cleanliness of the Israelites. Specifically, God is talking about defiling skin disease, but the process is pretty interesting. When someone feels like they have become unclean, they go to the priest for an assessment. From there, the priest spends time inspecting the person and seeing if the person is unclean. If he is unclean, the priest is supposed to give instructions and then (and pay attention to this) check up on him. The usual, initial step is to give the guy a week and see what happens. The priest comes back after seven days and reinspects. This process continues until the man is clean. An interesting piece of information is that the unclean man is kept away from the others while he goes through the cleansing process. God works on him away from the other people to protect them throughout the process.

Is this how we take care of peolpe today? Do we take those who are in need of help and help them until they are “clean”? Do we continue to investigate and help others until they are restored? These are questions I ask myself as I deal with people who are in need of help. I try to spend a lot of time working with those who ask for and need help and support. I try to be there for those around me so that I can help restore them.

I have even asked people to step away from ministry for a while to give them time to be restored. Restoration is a big part of healing. We tend to turn our backs on those who fall short of our standards, but we rarely do anything to help them get back on their feet. I have seen many people stumble, and I have seen many of those people let down by those around them. Ministry is about reaching out and restoring people to a right relationship with God. How are you accomplishing the mission?

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Arvind Balaraman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net



Leviticus 9 tells an interesting tale.  In it, God instructs Moses and Aaron how to prepare for their new ministry.  The preparations are very ceremonial, with directions on how to sacrifice and even what to wear.  Moses and Aaron are given specific instructions and told how to prepare both themselves and the others around them for this new ministry.  I’m so glad we don’t have to go through these steps now, especially the sacrifices, but in this I see something that may be missing from our current ministries.

 

Ministry is a beautiful thing.  God allows us to partner with Him to share the Word with others.  I wonder how often we start new endeavors with a reverence like Moses and Aaron had when they started theirs.  I know that as time goes on, I spend less time preparing myself for ministry and more time thinking about the lesson plan itself.  I think I miss the significance sometimes.  In fact I know I do.  I think about the people God has placed in my care, and I pray for them.  I do think about the lesson plans and what God wants them to learn, but I really don’t spend time preparing myself for the ministry.  I know we don’t live in an era where sacrificing animals for God is appropriate, and I don’t want to think about ministry preparation in a legalistic way, but I think that there is a place for real reverence in our ministries.  In prayer and in just listening to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we can gain much strength for our ministries.  Those of us who are teachers have a job that comes with a lot of responsibility.  How are you handling that responsibility?

I have been thinking a lot about prayer lately. With the devastating tsunami wreaking havoc around Japan, lots of people have been praying and encouraging others to pray. I love hearing people talk about prayer. I believe that we have the open ear of the omnipotent God. He who created existence allows us lowly buffoons to talk to Him. What an amazing privilege and what an astounding honor.

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

But, how are we supposed to pray? For what are we supposed to pray? For whom are we supposed to pray?

Those are my questions to myself, and I guess, my questions to you. I believe that we have a responisibility in our prayer life. I believe that prayer is a very personal and intimate thing. Even in corporate prayer, there is a bond that forms between people when we talk with God as a group. It is a beautiful thing, prayer. As beautiful as it is powerful.

Jesus modeled prayer for us in Matthew 6: 9-13 “Our Father in Heaven, hallowed be your Name. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”.

I like to use that as a guideline, but there are other things I feel the need to pray about. In fact, it feels like I have lots of other things that need prayer.

  • My relationships need prayer, sometimes a lot of prayer.
  • The young adult group I lead needs prayer
  • The youth group I lead needs prayer
  • I have issues that I face in my own life that also need prayer

I sometimes feel like I ask for too much, like a kid who isn’t happy with their new bike because I really want the blue one. Sometimes I feel as though I keep asking for help and forgiveness about the same things over and over again. Sometimes I think God is bored with my prayers, or maybe I’m missing something.

I would really love to hear your thoughts on prayer. I would really love to start a small discussion about how we pray. Am I alone in looking at prayer as a great mystery? What do you think? How do you pray?

I want!!!

Posted: March 3, 2011 in Christian Living
Tags: , , , ,



Image: Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I don’t always get the things that I want, but maybe that isn’t such a bad thing. Look at small children, and picture them asking for the things they want. They see something shiny or sweet on television, then they run over and beg, plead and bargain for this new thing that will make their life complete. If it was up to kids, they would eat sugar for breakfast, candy for lunch and cake for dinner. That isn’t healthy for them and we all know that. A reasonable parent would not allow their kid to eat like that. Not because the parent hates their kid, or wants their child to have a bad life, but for the exact opposite reasons. Parents who discipline their kids and make rules and guidelines do it so that the kid can grow up strong and good.

God does the same with us, and He should. When we want something, we come to him the same way. Begging, bargaining and pleading. If only we had that new job, that new house, that new car… if only I had a boyfriend/girlfriend, husband/wife… if only I had kids/grandkids… my life would be complete. How are we any different from small children? Our desires maturing does not correlate to our own maturation. We are still bratty kids wanting the new shiny thing. We just figure since we’re a little older, we have all the rights in the world to demand what we want.

It isn’t easy to hear our Dad say no when we ask for things we want. It never is. If we don’t get what we want, we should not necessarily blame God, as if He wants us to be annoyed. He doesn’t play games like that. He loves us and wants us to thrive. He really does want to give us good things.

What are your thoughts? Do you think God is unfair or maybe He knows what is best for us?