Wednesday, March 28, 2012

love the church?

Do we love the church? The local body of believers? Do we value meeting together? Do we give it a place of importance in our lives?

I've often wondered about those questions. Earlier today I read an article on Boundless that started me thinking about these things again. The article was called Love the Church. I would encourage you to read the article for yourself, but for those who don't, the basic premise is that in all of our desire to do big things for Jesus we cannot leave the local church in the dust. We need the local church along with those big things.

After I read the article, I found myself reflecting on what my usual attitude is towards the local church, and how it comes across in what I say and how I spend my time. Do I love the local church? Do I value meeting together with other believers? Do I value serving in the local church the same way I value doing the big things for Jesus?

There was a couple of sentences in the article that seemed to jump off the screen at me:

"The passion for ministry and commitment to a local church are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they must go together. You can't be all about the mission of Jesus and not be all about the mission of His bride."

When I read that, it felt like it got to the core of the issue for me.

I have heard the argument about not being involved in a local church that Jesus didn't go to church. Except that over and over in Scripture we find that He was to be found in the local Synagogue - the church of the day. And although He often spoke against the religious establishment of the day, Jesus was speaking against the misguided way they were leading the people in ways that were not according to God's will. Jesus' model for ministry was always in the context of people together. And much of the New Testament is comprised of letters to the local church in an area. Paul spent much of his time strengthening the local churches in areas he went to. Scripture makes it pretty clear that the local church is an important, I would daresay vital, part of our lives as followers of Christ.

So, I'm left with the question of whether I love the local church. And the challenge that I need to love the local church and I need to live in such a way that my life shows I value it.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

can God trust us?

As I was working through my homework for Beth Moore's study on Daniel, I found myself struck by and unable to stop thinking about a question she asked. She was talking about Daniel 10:12 which says: "Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them." (NIV). Beth Moore then spoke about a few different phrases in this verse, all of which were challenging and encouraging (and I'm not going to talk about them in this post), although it's the last phrase she spoke about that was what caused me to stop and reflect on my life.

Part of the verse says: "... to humble yourself before your God ..." Humility. I've heard it talked about often in Christian circles. And it something we should have in our lives as followers of Christ. In her words on this phrase, Beth Moore asked a question that stopped me and made me reflect for a while. She had this to say:
We often talk about whether we can trust God, but our concluding question is, Can God trust us? Can He trust us with power, insight, and influence as He did Daniel? Or will our pride get in the way? (Beth Moore, Daniel, page 204)
I've bee a part of lots of conversations about trusting God and wrestled with that question in my own life many times. But having the question turned around on me was something that caught me a little off guard . . . in a good way. I'd never asked myself or thought about that question before.

Can God trust me? Can He use me in great ways? Can He teach me and show me new things? Or will I get caught up in my own pride does those things for and through me? Can God trust me to be able to use me to reflect His glory to the world around me? Or do things God uses me for quickly become things I use for my own glory?

Tough question. Challenging to think about.

Pride is one of those things I think we all struggle with at various points in our lives. It is easy to lose focus of being humble before God. We learn something new through study. We hear something great form God. God allows us to be part of something great that He is doing. And we become proud. Maybe not intentionally, but we become proud nonetheless. Proud of our knowledge. Proud of our ability to hear God. Proud of what we did, instead of what God did. And in the process we answer the question of whether God can trust us the way we don't want to. The answer to that questions becomes, "no, God can't trust us - our pride has gotten in the way."

But, thankfully, we can push the reset button on humility in our lives when that happens. We get on our knees before God and declare, again, our dependence on Him for all of that we do. And then we move forward in humility, praying that we can continue to live in a way that God can trust us. And, quite probably, the cycle continues to repeat itself to some degree or another for the rest of our lives. But each time it becomes easier for us to humble ourselves before God because we know that is truly the best way to live and the time between our turns back to pride grow longer and longer.

There is grace when we fail and continue to struggle with pride. There are second chances for that. But,we need to make humbling ourselves before God a lifestyle, as Daniel did. And when we do that, we can know that God can trust us with power, insight, and influence.

So, I leave you with one question to reflect on: Can God trust you?

Friday, March 23, 2012

hearing God's voice

In the last few months I've been part of conversations that have turned to what it sounds like to hear God's voice. It seems that in Christian circles we often use the words "God told me" when talking about why we're making a certain decision. I've used it often myself. But, lately I've been wondering what I actually mean when I say that.

What do I mean when I say that Gold told me to do something different? What do I mean when I say God told me not to do something?

When I say that, I'm saying that I heard God's voice in some way in my life. But, often I couldn't explain it anymore than that. I can't often tell someone how exactly I heard God's voice, but I know I have. It would be easy if hearing God's voice was like hearing someone sitting across the table from you telling you something. But, it's not. Hearing God's voice is something inside. Most often it's something personal. And that can be hard to explain to another person.

What I do know is that to learn to recognize God's voice speaking in our lives we have to take the time to develop a relationship with Him. We have to make it a priority so we can learn to hear God's voice. The same way through spending time with them we learn to recognize the voices of our family and friends, is what we have to do God if we want to learn to hear and recognize God's voice when He speaks.

Monday, March 19, 2012


When I wrote a post about community a little over a month ago, I had a line from a chorus of a song I had heard just a couple weeks before that running through my head. The line has been stuck in my head since I first heard the song. It's from the Jars of Clay song "Shelter" and says "In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live."

When I stopped to listen to the lyrics of the entire song, I realized that they so clearly described what I was talking about in the post I wrote on community. It's about becoming known to and living in community with those around us.

"Shelter" by Jars of Clay

There is so much truth in the words to the line in the chorus that has been stuck in my head for a couple months now: "In the shelter of each other, we will live, we will live." That is the way we are meant to live - in community with each other, where we care for, love, protect each other.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

even if

A few weeks ago a friend had a link on their Facebook to a song that I clicked on. It quickly became a favourite and has been stuck in my head since.

"Even If" by Kutless

Sometimes life is not what we planned for or hoped for. Things happen that we prayed wouldn't happen. Or things don't happen that we prayed would happen. Those are times when our faith can be tested. Do we believe and follow God anyway? Or do we turn away?

The words to the chorus of this song are definitely incredible to think about and declare in our own lives.
Even if the healing doesn't come
And life falls apart
And dreams are still undone
You are God, You are good
Forever Faithful One
Even if the healing
Even if the healing doesn't come
Those words cover most of what could happen that would test our faith - healing that we and others have prayed for doesn't come, life in general just seems to be falling apart, or our dreams are not coming true the way we thought they would. In the midst of all that, can we declare that God is good and faithful, based on what we know to be true from His Word?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

the importance of our names

The last couple of months have meant a lot of time spent in the book of Daniel learning lessons from the life of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. There are a lot of lessons to learn from these young men and the way they chose to live in a foreign culture. But, the other day I found myself reflecting on how important it was that in Daniel 1 we read of one of the first things when they are carried off into captivity in Babylon their names are changed by the King of Babylon.

Daniel and his friends has names that spoke of the God of Israel - of Who He was. One of the first things, King Nebuchadnezzar did was change their names to reflect the gods of the Babylonians. Another sign of the attempt to completely assimilate the Israelites into the new culture surrounding them. An attempt to take away their identity as people of God (as the Israelites were).

It makes me think about how important the names other people call me and that I call myself are. I'm not talking so much about our given names, but more of the names that get used to identify ourselves based on our appearance or what we do. These names can be good and helpful. Or they can be destructive and keep us from doing what we are really able to and called to do. Either way, they have an impact on how we live and how we think of ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder if the names we have for ourselves are negative and defeating more often than we really want to admit. Or maybe we just tend to believe those ones easier, so they're the ones that stick. And they're the ones that we believe are true. It just seems like they are the ones that describe us best. And when we get caught up in them, we seem to be stuck and unable to move beyond those descriptions.

When I think about it, this seems to be Satan's specialty, If he can get us to believe the negative, defeating names about ourselves over anything else, he can keep us from doing what God has for us to do. He may use situations or other people in our lives to tell us that his names for us are what describe us over anything else. Satan works to get us to believe that our names are: failure, loser, ugly, not worth loving, screw up, unforgivable, and many others. If he can get us to believe those things, he has us stuck where he wants us - living in defeat.

But, can I tell you the truth? Those are not your names! God has very different names for us. Names that set us free to live life to the full. Names like: beautiful, lovable, forgiven, chosen, special. Those are names that we need to learn to believe. They are names that will change our lives for the better.

It's not always easy to change the names we believe we have been given in our minds. When we've been caught up in believing the negative, defeating names, trying to think of ourselves differently can seem impossible. But it's not! Well, maybe if we try to do it by our own strength it will be impossible, but we don't have to change our thinking on our own. We can ask God to help us and we can immerse ourselves in what His Word says about us. In fact, that is the way we begin to believe God's names for us. We have to immerse ourselves in His truth, so that the old lies that wallpaper our minds can be torn down and new wallpaper with God's truth can be put up in it's place.

{I've had this post sitting in my drafts for a while now. I really wasn't sure how to finish it. I'm still not sure, but I felt that it was time post it anyways, so it's up without an ending that I would have liked to have.}

tested by fire

I've been part of a study on the book of Daniel since the beginning of January. It has been good to spend time in a book I don't read very often, and to take another look at a couple of stories from it that I thought I knew well. I grew up in the church and heard the story of Daniel and the Lion's Den and of The Fiery Furnace many times, but usually a pretty tamed down version compared to what those situations would have been like for Daniel and his friends. The same overall lessons could be taught based on the understanding that a child has, but the reality of what the fiery furnace and the lion's den would have been like was not touched on in much detail.

Because of that, the stories challenged me again when I studied them this time. Taking the time to think about what it would have been like to be making your stand with roar of a fiery furnace behind you - a fire so hot that the soldiers who threw them in the furnace died (Daniel 3:22). That is not something to take lightly. Realizing that detail made me think twice about the stand that Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego made. Or noticing the detail that the lions in the den that Daniel was thrown into were actually hungry. Daniel wasn't spared because the lions weren't hungry. He was spared because God shut the mouths of the lions. Those who were thrown in the lions den after Daniel was pulled out were devoured immediately (Daniel 6:24).

For Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego they chose to stand for God even when they weren't sure they would survive that. They were tested by fire and they chose to trust God. In Daniel 3:16-18 Shadrach, Mesheach, and Abednego put it this way:
16 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17 If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. 18 But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
They trusted their God was able to deliver them - whether that deliverance came on earth or in the form of being ushered into God's presence. And their trust in God was tested. They were thrown in the fiery furnace, but they survived it.

As a part of our study, we talked about how there are three ways a situation of being tested by fire can happen: (these are taken from Beth Moore's study on Daniel - Session 3):
  1. We can be delivered from the fire.
  2. We can be delivered through the fire.
  3. We can be delivered by the fire into eternity.
When I read those I definitely know which option I would prefer. If God would deliver me from the fire that would be fine with me. I'd rather not go through those kinds of things. But, when I look back on my life I know I've grown the most when God has chosen to deliver me through the fire - those times when I have had to walk through the hard time, but He has walked with me through it.

It may not be what we wish for in our human nature, but having a faith in God that is tested by fire  will bring us growth. And because we don't have to walk alone, when we're tested by fire we will be able to go through it. God walks with us through that.