Thursday, January 30, 2014

Are You Afraid to Live a Creative Life?

"To live a creative life, we must lose our fear of being wrong." (Joseph Chilton Pearce)

I stumbled across this quote recently and thought it was a valuable one to remember.

At it's heart, creativity don't have a right or wrong. Yet, we often live as if there is. And in the process, we miss out on much of the creativity we have to offer. I know this has been true for me.

If we are always fearing that we will do something wrong, we will try to make our work conform to what others expect it to, rather than allow it to be what it really could be. When we try to conform our work to what we think are the expectations of others, we will fall well short of what it could be.

But when we let go of that fear of failing someone with our work and the expectations we think others have for us, our creativity is allowed to shine. And we produce our best work.

We serve a creative God. And He put that within us. He gave it to us to use. The ability to create things that you and I have comes from God. We need to be using it to His glory.

Using that to God's glory means we have to let go of the fear of being wrong. It holds us back from the full potential of what God has put in us.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

He is Greater

I've been reading in Isaiah recently and this morning I was reminded of something important by what I read.

We serve a God Who is greater than anything that comes our way. What a great truth to build our life upon.

Takes a moment to read these verses out of Isaiah 40.

With whom, then, will you compare Good?
     To what image will you liken Him?
. . .
Do you not know?
     Have you not heard?
Has it not been told to you from the beginning?
     Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
     and its people are like grasshopper.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
     and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
. . .
To whom will you compare Me?
     Or who is My equal? says the Holy One.
Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
     Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
     and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of His great power and mighty strength,
     not one of them is missing.
Why do you complain, Jacob?
     Why do you say, Israel,
My way is hidden from the Lord;
     my cause is disregarded by my God?
Do you not know?
     Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
     the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
     and His understanding no one can fathom.
                                                           Isaiah 40:18, 21-22, 25-28

Sometimes I think we just need to be reminded that our God is greater than anything we may face in life. Because life can often seem overwhelming. We need to hold onto the truth that our God is greater and because of that we will make it through whatever comes our way. We just have to hold onto Him.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Discipline of Joy

Putting the words discipline and joy together doesn't sound right to me at first hearing. They're not two words we often put together. And, until recently, I would have argued that they don't go together.

In the last week, I've had the discipline of joy come up in two separate Bible studies, so I started thinking more about it. Putting these words together may sound strange to our human ear, but they fit.

Often, the world we live in isn't one that pushes us toward joy naturally. The reality is that life can be hard and joy can be something at the bottom of the list for us in those times.

When we begin to look at Scripture, we quickly realize that the authors of it didn't really make joy an optional thing for followers of Christ. In Philippians 4:4, Paul says this, "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!" 1 Thessalonians 5:16 tells us to "rejoice always."

These words coming form a man how didn't have a lot of reasons for joy from an earthly perspective. He had been beaten, shipwrecked, imprisoned. Yet, Paul knew the importance of joy in the life of a follower of Christ, no matter the circumstances.

So, if joy is something so important, it is commanded in Scripture, then maybe calling it a spiritual discipline isn't so far off.

Even the Old Testament Law provides commands for celebration in the life of Israel. Celebration and joy are that important to God. Important enough that He made allowance for them in His covenant with Israel.

If joy is so important, why don't we experience more of it in our lives? Why is it so absent? And why does it often seem so elusive?

We don't experience joy because we don't make it a regular practice in our lives. We allow it to be contingent on our circumstances. If we allow it to be contingent on our circumstances, we won't have much of it in our lives.

But we also miss moments of joy in our everyday lives, because we're looking for it to be something big. We think joy and celebration should be something special and unique.

And they can be, but they don't always have to be. Maybe what we need to be looking for is the moments of joy in each day that we easily miss. Look for the little things and take a moment to find joy in them.

And then we also need to learn to set aside regular times to celebrate. Much like the times appointed in the Old Testament Law, we need to set aside times for that in our own lives. We have to take the time to celebrate what God has done and is doing with each other.

How are you doing with the discipline of joy in your life?

Are you missing the moments for joy in your everyday life?

How can you develop the practice of looking for joy in the everyday moments in life?

When was the last time you intentionally set aside time to celebrate what God has done and is doing?

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Sure Foundation

"So this is what the Sovereign Lord says:
     See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone,
          a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation;
     the one who relies on it
          will never be stricken with panic." (Isaiah 28:16)

The words come from the prophet Isaiah to the nation of Israel in the midst of messages of judgement and destruction. A glimmer of hope in the midst of some difficult words to hear.

Words that point toward a hope to come.

Words that also speak hope to us today.

When I read them, I was struck by the last line: ". . . will never be stricken with panic." It seems pretty easy to panic about things in life.

Something unexpected happens at work . . . we panic.

Something doesn't go according to our plan . . . we panic.

Something happen to a loved one . . . we panic.

We panic in many situations, because we're looking at the situation and trying to figure out how we can handle it ourselves.

And then, if you're like me, you read verses like and end up frustrated because it doesn't seem to be true in our lives. We get frustrated because we're not looking at the whole picture presented in the passage.

In Isaiah 28:16, we're told we won't be stricken by panic because of the foundation we're relying on and have built our lives upon. God says that He is setting up a sure foundation for us and if we choose to rely on we won't be stricken with panic. For the last part of this verse to be true in our lives, we have to live according to what the first part says. We have to be building our lives on the right foundation.

When we're building our lives on Jesus, we can stand strong through whatever comes our way. As Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount:

"Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house; yet it did not fall, because it had laid its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against the house, and it fell with a great crash." (Matthew 7:24-27)

Jesus made if pretty clear that it's the foundation we build our lives upon that matters. And when we've built our lives on that solid foundation and are relying it, we aren't stricken with panic when things don't go quite as we had planned.

Something unexpected happens at work . . . we trust God and rely on Him, instead of panicking.

Something doesn't go according to our plan . . . we trust God and rely on Him, instead of panicking.

Something happens to a loved one . . . we trust God and rely on Him, instead of panicking.

It's that easy to say, but it can be more difficult to live. It goes against what we naturally want to do. We have to choose to go once again the firm foundation we have chosen to build our lives upon.

"Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7)

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

The Body of Christ in Action

On Sunday morning as I stood in the church foyer and watched what was going on in the parking lot, I was struck by the beautiful picture of the body of Christ on earth in action that I was seeing. After rain and freezing temperatures, the parking lot was icy. I had carefully and slowly made my way from my car to the church doors just a few minutes earlier.

As I looked out, I watched people from my church stay out in the parking lot to help other people arriving get safely to the church doors. It would have been easy for them to just stay inside once they arrived, but they decided to help others.

It really was a beautiful picture to watch. The body of Christ caring for each other in practical ways. The body of Christ operating the way we should.

At least, I would say that's how we should be acting towards one another. Caring about each other enough to help in simple, practical ways when it would be easy not to. It really doesn't take a lot to do things like this.

Scripture tells us that the world around us should know we're Christians by how we love one another (see 1 John 4:21 and John 13:34-35). This should be evident in little, everyday ways. Things like making sure other people make it safely across an icy parking lot.

Everyday, we're faced with simple, practical ways we cans hare Christ's love for us and for others, but we pass more of them by than we take. Telling ourselves it will be too much of an inconvenience to do so. Maybe we need to start taking advantage of more of them.

Will you join me in looking for one thing you can do each day to show Christ's love in a practical way? And then actually do it.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

My Testimony is Boring

My testimony is boring.
No one is going to want to listen to it.
I have nothing exciting to share.

I used to say those words all the time. And some of you might be thinking them after my post a couple of days ago on the power of your testimony.

But, I`ve been learning in the last few years that while my story isn`t full of dramatic turns, it is far from boring. God has still been working in my life. God has still been transforming my heart and my life.

I grew up in a Christian family. Asked Jesus into my heart when I was kid and have followed God since. I haven`t done it perfectly, but I never veered too far off the path. And I came back quickly when I did wander.

There was a time when I wished my testimony was more exciting - that God had rescued me from bigger things. But, when Scripture talks about the power of our testimonies, it says nothing about some testimonies being better than others. It says nothing about only some having power. The Bible just tells us that our testimonies have power. (see Revelation 12:10-11)

And the truth is, I still have stories of God working in my life. And they`re still powerful stories, even if they`re not dramatic.

You do too.

Whatever your testimony is, it`s not boring. No one`s is if they`ve allowed God in and allowed Him to change us.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

The Power of Your Testimony

How often do you walk away from a time of hearing someone's testimony excited about what God can do?

If you're like me, this happens every time someone shares their testimony with you. It doesn't have to be in a formal setting either. It could be part of it over coffee. But anytime someone shares their testimony with us it excites us.

It reminds us that God is still working. Still changing hearts and lives. And, in the midst of our broken and dark world, we that reminder often to sustain us.

A testimony is simply a story of what God has done and is doing in your life. Sometimes it's your entire journey with Christ. Other times, it's just a small part of it that shows how God has been at work in you at a specific time.

But, these simple stories we share, these testimonies, have incredible power. Revelation 12:10-11 says, "For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down. They triumphed over him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony."

The accuser in these verses is Satan. The testimonies we share are our victories over Satan in our lives. They are that powerful.

But, because of their power, Satan doesn't want us to share them. I read something on Lysa TerKeurst's blog recently that said it better than I could.

"Satan doesn't want you to know how powerful your testimony is. He doesn't want you to know that your expressions of God-honoring, Jesus-empowering truths subdue and overcome him and his accusations." (You can read Lysa's entire post here)

Satan knows the power our testimonies have and he will do everything he can to stop us from sharing them. The last thing he wants is for us to share them.

I don't know what your testimony is. I don't know whether it's full of dramatic choices and turns, or if it's pretty straightforward. But, this I do know, you have a testimony.

God has been at work in your life and no matter how insignificant things may seem to you, it is powerful because it's your story of God at work in you. And God doesn't think that's insignificant.

So, let's refuse to listen to the accuser. Let's not allow Satan to keep us from sharing our testimonies.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Why do we Hide & Pretend?

In my post a few days ago I talked about the burdens of hiding and pretending that we do often carry. And about how we can lay down these burdens that take so much of our energy to carry.

It sounds so simple to say the way to lay down these burdens is to have people we're honest with about the good and the bad in our lives. In truth, it is as simple as it sounds, but there is something that makes living it more difficult.

"When it comes to living truthfully with others one of our primary struggles is that we seem to be of two minds: we long for the truth and we are afraid of the truth. Longing to be - and fear of being - known." (Stage 2: Community with Others, Vantage Point 3: A Way of Life)

At the same time as we long to be really known by other, we also fear it. And often this fear keeps us from living truthfully with others.

We fear being truthful with others for many reasons:
  • we've been shamed for sharing things in the past
  • we've been hurt for doing so in the past
  • we don't know anyone who has done it before
  • we're ashamed of our struggles
  • we've been taught that sharing our struggles is a bad thing
I'm sure there are many more reasons that could be given. Each of us has our own reasons for fearing being known at the same time as we long for it.

The first step to overcoming this fear is to admit it. We have to start by acknowledging that it is a fear there. Confess it to God and to other carefully chosen people. As we choose to take steps to be transparent with others despite our fear of doing so, the fear loses its grips on our lives. And the next time becomes a bit easier than the last, until we're no longer bound by this fear.

We have to allow our longing to be known to be stronger than our fear of being known. It's not easy, but it is the most rewarding way to live.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Five Minute Friday: Fight

It's back. Five Minute Friday. Joining in with the group over at Lisa-Jo Baker's blog for five minutes of writing on the given word for the week. No editing. No over-thinking. Then share it here and join up with the rest over at the blog to share it there as well. This week's word is "fight."

In 2 Timothy 4:8, Paul says, "I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith." When I read this verse, I've always wondered what Paul meant when he said he had fought the good fight. The more I think about it, the more I realize just how significant these words from Paul are.

As a follower of Christ, we are engaged in a battle we can't see every minute of every day. We have to fight the good fight all the time. The fight that we join in when we choose to follow Jesus with our lives.

The battle is only over when our time on this earth is done. Until that point, we fight the good fight like Paul did.

What does it mean to fight the good fight?

It means we choose to follow and obey God even when other things look more tempting and more fun.

It means we choose to follow and obey God even when it doesn't make sense.

It means we choose to follow and obey God no matter what it costs us.

It's not easy to fight the good fight, but I think Paul and many other who have gone before us would say that it is worth it.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

The Burdens of Hiding & Pretending

"Confession is a discipline that functions within fellowship. In it we let trusted others know our deepest weaknesses and failures. This will nourish our faith in God's provision for our needs through His people, our sense of being loved and our humility before our brothers and sisters. This we let some friends in Christ know who we really are, not holding back anything important, but, ideally, allowing complete transparency. We lay down the burdens of hiding and pretending, which normally take up such a dreadful amount of human energy. We engage and are engaged by others in the profound depths of the soul." (Dallas Willard)

When I first read this quote, one phrase jumped off the page at me. It only makes sense within the context of the entire quote, but the words of the phrase are incredibly important for us to grasp.

We lay down the burdens of hiding and pretending . . ."

We don't usually talk about hiding and pretending as burdens - if we talk about them at all. For the most part, we don't admit we spend much of our lives hiding and pretending.

We live in a culture that encourages us to hide and pretend. We're taught that we need to look like we have it all together all that time. That it doesn't matter what is going on inside, on the outside everything should be fine.

Se, we pretend and we hide.

We pretend that things are going great even when they might not be. And we hide how we are truly feeling behind our answers of "fine" and "good."

But, if we're honest, even if only to ourselves, all of this hiding and pretending does get burdensome. It takes a lot of work to do it all the time. We've gotten so good at pretending and hiding, but deep down we want to stop doing it all the time. Deep down we want others to know what's really going on and how we really feel. We want to "lay down the burdens of hiding and pretending" that we've been carrying.

That's where the rest of the quote by Dallas Willard comes in. Willard is telling us how we can lay down the burdens of hiding and pretending. We can only lay that burden down by choosing to be honest with people and allowing them to know our weaknesses and our failures - by choosing transparency instead of hiding and pretending. We have to choose to be honest with each other about the good and the bad in our lives. Because it's only when we are really known by others that we stop carrying the tiresome burdens of hiding and pretending that have been stealing our energy.

It's not that we need to share every detail of the hard and the bad in our lives with every person we meet. But that, as Willard said, "we let some friends in Christ know who we really are." When we do this, things are different because we're not carrying the same burden anymore. It allows us to be more of who we really are with everyone, even if not everyone knows every detail.

"To confess our sins before others, though, helps let go of this exhausting need to keep up appearances. It frees us to live truthfully and humbly in the mercy of God." (Stage 2: Community with Others, Vantage Point 3: A Way of Life)