Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

How to Have God Show Himself to You

February 18, 2007

We had finally hit it. The “NO” stage. My daughter Kathryn at 18 months had discovered this word. Along with her happy babbling, she started adding her marked dissent to situations that do not suit her.

Sometimes she just practiced the word for no real reason. In the car…”No no no no no no no..” or while playing “No no no no no no no no” or even when she meant to say yes to a bowl of applesauce she sometimes said “No no no no no no” (and then got mightily upset when I responded with an “OK” and took the applesauce away. Hahaha!)

I have to admit, it became exhausting. I think if she only realized that what I had for her was so much better! Getting a bath, cleaning her bottom, giving her dinner (rather than just Saltines)…

I remember hitting this stage in my Christian life. When I first got saved, I was SO happy and grateful that I just wanted to please the Lord no matter what. Until He asked difficult things of me, like giving up certain relationships or doing the work to change a habit that did not please Him. Then I entered the “NO” stage. Of course, I didn’t categorize it as such because I was so good at disguising my “NO” with really spiritual sounding excuses. I can’t imagine how irritated my Abba must have been.

“Whoever has My commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves Me. He who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I too will love him and show Myself to him” (Jn. 14:21) [Emphasis mine].

The key here is in the last four words. He will show Himself to us when we show our love for Him through our obedience. The more obedient we become, the more revelation of His presence we will feel in our life. Jeremiah tells us, “Call to Me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know” (Jer. 33:3).

Do you ever wonder why sometimes you cannot hear or sense God’s presence in your life, even though you know He is there? I did. I have found for me that it is often because at times I do not seek Him with a whole heart, and I am not always obedient to the things He has asked. God does not show us the next move until we are obedient to the first thing He has spoken to us. It is a progressive process. He entrusts the small things to us first, then moves us to the larger.

Sometimes we can become so focused on seeking the activity of God that we don’t seek God Himself. Hebrews tells us that God rewards those who diligently seek Him. In the Old Testament we are told, “But if from there you seek the Lord your God, you will find Him if you look for Him with all your heart and with all your soul” (Deut. 4:29).

Do you have a situation in which you are giving the Lord a sophisticated, well researched “NO”? Let me encourage you to do whatever it takes to change that to a “Yes”. Obey Him! The Lord has such wonderful things in store that we don’t know of! Things that will fill our souls and give us joy…it is what He desires for us – hope and a future. But we must do it His way.

Sometimes, we do not have to seek Him out to know His desires. We simply need to choose to obey His words. The more I seek Him, the more clearly I hear Him. And when we hear Him we must simply obey so that we may be empowered by His presence.


My journey to Clutter Prevention

February 9, 2007

So, I am embarrassed to admit that I was watching Oprah yesterday. Nothing wrong with her show, it is just the “lazy-soccer-mom-stays-home-and-watches-Oprah-while-eating bon-bons” stereotype that I resist. Just so you know, I was emptying the dishwasher and preparing dinner while watching. No chocolate in sight.

The show caught my attention because the girls were still napping (a quiet house!) and because on the show they were cleaning out a really “cluttered” house. If my mother ever watched a single episode of Oprah and saw it, she would have called it a “downright pig-sty”, and would have said they had no “home-training.” But today’s terminology is “cluttered.” I can get with that.

Now, I don’t think our house is overly cluttered, but the potential is one pair of shoes away. Our house is smaller and seriously lacking in closet space. I mean, right now, there are only two functioning closets for clothes – the master bedroom and the front closet. All the other clothes closets have had their doors and clothing bars removed and now have bookshelves or dressers in them to create a more spacious look in the room itself.

So, needless to say, any overflow of shoes, clothing, or accessories have nowhere to go except in the garage in a box. In fact, almost all of my shoes are on some shelves in the garage. Kind of hard to get dressed when you have to go to the garage or dig in a box. Now, mind you, I am willing to admit that my closet is plenty big. I simply have too much stuff. So, either we buy a bigger house to store all 2 gazillion pairs of shoes, or I pare down. Simplify. I decided paring down was cheaper.

So, I watched Oprah. I was inspired to get rid of everything not in “the present”. My closet and the myriad of boxes in the garage were filled with items from “the past” (“I wore that on our first date”, or “I spent way to much money to throw that away!”) or from “the future” (“I will get back into that pair of size 4 pants if it kills me” or “I might need to wear that one day”). I am inspired to try to live in the present.

Well, unfortunately, I realize that I have not fully accepted my present. Why? In the last 4 years I got married in my late 30s, moved to a new town, and had 2 children. I think my brain is still stuck in my career focused, socially active, living by myself mindset. Am I really that stay at home mom who wears sweats 6 times more often than dress slacks? Is my social life now playgroups and birthday parties? Do I really share my house with 3 other people and so cannot take over every closet in the place to store my clothes and shoes? Am I now to accept that my butt is really that big?

I sit here staring at a pile of sequined evening dresses as the reality of my new life hits me with a thud like a chubby unwanted bully. Cleaning out the closet seems to be resurrecting a need for therapy.

Now, mind you, I love my new life with my girls and my husband dearly. I would not trade them for anything. So why is choosing to live in the present and give up my favorite jeans that no longer fit and those 4 inch stilettos that kill my toes so difficult?

Clinging to the past
So many of my things remind me of the past…I have many happy memories, and have some regret about the way I have accumulated things. Ecclesiastes encourages us to live in the present, not the past. Eccl.5:19-20 To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life, that is indeed a gift from God. People who do this rarely look with sorrow on the past, for God has given them reasons for joy.

Living for the Future
The things that I don’t use, I tend to save because I might need them in the future. I mean, should we be out of work and become homeless with no money, at least I will have my black crocodile stilettos to wear while we panhandle, right? And you never know, I might just get back to my pre-baby weight and shape so that I can wear all those size six fancy suits while I avoid being touched by little fingers covered in mashed bananas.

I realize that hording things for some moment in the future is simply worry in a form that is more difficult to recognize. After all, God is the one who gives me a future – He has the plans. My next breath belongs to Him. Jer 31:16-17 For I know the plans I have for you,” says the LORD. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. There is hope for your future,” says the LORD. ”

Now, of course there is reasonable planning for the future that wisdom dictates we do. But I don’t need to keep so many extraneous things to feel secure. God has given me hope for my future. He has given me reasons for joy.

My Present: a reason for joy
So cleaning out my closet and dresser is my first stab at living my life in the present. My sweats wearing, grubby kids handprint wiping, dinner cooking, Volvo driving, big hipped, wonderful, blessed present.
Matthew 6:25-34
“So I tell you, don’t worry about everyday life whether you have enough food, drink, and clothes. Doesn’t life consist of more than food and clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t need to plant or harvest or put food in barns because your heavenly Father feeds them. And you are far more valuable to him than they are. Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? Of course not.

“And why worry about your clothes? Look at the lilies and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing, yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are. And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and gone tomorrow, won’t he more surely care for you? You have so little faith!

“So don’t worry about having enough food or drink or clothing. Why be like the pagans who are so deeply concerned about these things? Your heavenly Father already knows all your needs, and he will give you all you need from day to day if you live for him and make the Kingdom of God your primary concern. “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

Are our church programs accomplishing anything?

February 9, 2007

I am fairly active in the Women’s Ministry at my church. We have a diversity of race, marital status, spiritual growth, career, age, and about every demographic area you could think of. Therefore, it has become a challenge for us to plan for these women so that we are being effectual (having an eternal effect on each woman) rather than just temporarily fun, or interesting.

To this end, I have begun researching the state of Christian women in the US, and have in the process come accross some interesting research about the church as a whole. I am hoping to post some of the information I find about women specifically here, but surprisingly, I am having difficulty coming up with research that is as specific as I would like.

Research guru George Barna commented on his “top twelve” interesting research facts about the church. “These results point out some of the areas in which the Church needs to devote greater attention. Among the major challenges to churches are the 4 Cs: commitment, comprehension, caring and communication. A lot of people attend church services, but relatively few have a deep commitment to their church, to personal ministry and to spiritual maturity. People hear a lot of religious teaching and buy millions of religious books, but there is as much theological confusion as understanding. Compassion is a term that most believers endorse but surprisingly few practice. Better communication is necessary not only to teach people more effectively, but to build more meaningful and lasting relationships and to help people stay focused on the things in life that really matter.”

As our congregations change and shift in the people who are attending, the list below might help us know where to focus some additional attention. It creates some interesting benchmarks that we can use to measure whether we are being effective or not in our programs, after all, if a program is not being effective for Christ, what is the point?

(1) Children’s programs: Is evangelism a focus?

(2) Youth Programs: Do kids choose to attend church once they have graduated from your program? What do they know by the time they have graduated?

“Fewer than one-third of all teenagers are likely to attend a Christian church once they are living independent of their parents. Although two-thirds of all teenagers say they know all the basic teachings and principles of the Christian faith, two-thirds of them reject the existence of Satan, three-fifths reject the existence of the Holy Spirit, and half believe that Jesus sinned during His lifetime.”

(3) Administration: Can the community count on you to be available for help?

“40% of Christian churches are virtually impossible to reach by telephone, no matter how many calls are made to those churches.”

(4) Young Adult program: Are they saved? Are we reaching the unsaved young adult?

“The share of 18-29 year olds within the born again population has dropped from 20% in 1991 to just 14% today.”

(5) Marriage/Couples Ministries: What is our divorce rate?

“Born again adults are more likely to experience a divorce than are non-born again adults (27% vs. 24%).”

(6) Women’s programs: Are we adequately feeding and supporting our women?

“Women make up 60% of church membership. Although women are more active in church life than are men, their levels of participation in many aspects of church life – from worship attendance to volunteerism – are significantly declining.”

(7) Lay Leadership Development: Are we adequately training/mentoring our leaders?

“Among adults who are lay leaders in their church, more than nine out of ten prioritize their faith in their life goals. However, large proportions of the lay leaders in Christian churches hold a range of unbiblical religious views regarding the holiness of Christ, the reality of Satan, the existence of the Holy Spirit, the reality of the resurrection, and the means to salvation.”

(8) Members: A challenge – where is our money going? what are our life goals?

“Born again Christians spend seven times as much time on entertainment as they do on spiritual activities. In a representative nationwide survey among born again adults, none of the individuals interviewed said that the single, most important goal in their life is to be a committed follower of Jesus Christ.”

(9) Evangelistic Missions – “Half of all unchurched and non-Christian adults admit that they are seeking meaning and purpose in their life – providing a meaningful entry point for evangelizers.”

Just some food for thought!

A Cheat Sheet for How to Prep your Heart for Communion

February 3, 2007

Christmastime, like any other year was pretty hectic this last year. I had to stop and take stock one day, as I found myself with my mouth full and overflowing with sugar cookies with globby green icing, short tempered, and resenting the box of decorations sitting on my living room floor in front of the naked Blue Spruce. As I stood in the middle of the kitchen, it was as if the Lord whispered in a southern accent, “Honey, you are more worked up than a mule running the Kentucky Derby. I didn’t even ask you for a birthday party!” “You didn’t?” I said out loud.

It was true! I suddenly realized that the Lord didn’t command us to celebrate His birth. It is a wonderful meaningful time, but nowhere in scripture did Christ ask for a birthday party every year (as much as I love to give Him one anyway!)

Then my mind immediately went to all the things that He did ask His followers to do — one, namely, was to remember His death. Or participate in our version of that memorial service — Communion. Did I spend near enough time preparing my heart for Communion the way I did for Christmas? Not even close. So I determined that this year I would start with that one thing. I would pay attention to and prepare my heart for remembering His death and the supernatural power that it has to set me free.

So, this Sunday is Communion Sunday. I put together a cheat sheet for properly preparing my heart to come to the Lord’s Table. Feel free to use it to prepare yourself for this important ordinance! You’ll be amazed at the depth that the Holy Spirit will bring to the service for you.

Who should and should not take communion:
Anyone who has a personal relationship with Christ should come. No one needs to stay away from communion or “the Lord’s Table” because they have sin in their life – we all have sin in our life. No one needs to stay away from communion because they have doubts – Jesus included doubting Thomas at the table along with the rest of the disciples. No one needs to stay away from communion because they are struggling spiritually – Jesus invited the weary and heavy laden to come to him and find rest. If you do not yet have a personal relationship with Him there is no reason to remember His death, and you might actually be doing more harm than good.

Why the way we take communion matters (Why bother to prepare?)

There are a couple of things that scriptures instruct us to do prior to taking communion, or coming to “the Lord’s Table” .
A) The first is that we don’t take communion in an “unworthy” manner. Because “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord.” 1 Cor 11:27 Ack! I know I don’t want to be guilty of that!

B) Nor do I want to bring weakness, illness, or even death upon myself (I don’t know if he was referring to physical or emotional/spiritual, but I don’t want either of those – physical or spiritual weakness, sickness, sleepiness, or death! 1 Cor 11:30)
PREPARING YOUR HEART AND MIND FOR COMMUNION…before you get to church — ideally throughout the weekend…

(1) Examine your heart for ongoing sin and choose to turn from it. You are already forgiven, but should speak your sin to the Lord in agreement with His view of it, and then change your behavior/thought processes/attitudes.
I Cor 11:28 A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup.
(2) Take care of any business you have outstanding with other believers

Matt 5:23-24 23 “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift. 1Cor11:31 But if we judged ourselves, we would not come under judgment. When we are judged by the Lord, we are being disciplined so that we will not be condemned with the world.

(3) Take time to remember/muse/meditate on why He died
Matt 26:26-28 This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

1Cor 11:29-30 For anyone who eats and drinks without recognizing the body of the Lord eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep.

(4) Take time to “proclaim the Lord’s death” — tell someone!

Just wanted to bounce that past you so we can all come before the Lord in a worthy manner on Sunday!