Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lye and Truth

I don't know about you, but when I first started this journey of faith, I believed that everything was going to be happy, fun...sunshine and lemonade. Don't let the rest fool you, I've had more fun than I expected, but the challenges along the way were much more than I expected.

Malachi, with God's help, understood just how intense this whole process of redemption and reconciliation was going to be... long before the physical arrival of Christ in our world. Here, the prophet describes what is to come in our cleansing:

"He'll be like white-hot fire from the smelter's furnace. He'll be like the strongest lye soap at the laundry. He'll take his place as a refiner of silver, as a cleanser of dirty clothes. He'll scrub the Levite priests clean, refine them like gold and silver, until they're fit for God, fit to present offerings of righteousness. Then and only then, will Judah and Jerusalem fit and pleasing to God, as they used to be in the years long ago." Malachi 3:2-4 (MSG)

I'll admit, I don't use lye soap. I use the smelly soft soap from a pump bottle. But I do remember using bar soap. I don't know much about lye soap. So I did a little research. Here's a quick video you should watch to understand just how powerful lye soap can be-

As you can see. Lye is powerful stuff- the chemical reaction heated the water to nearly 200 degrees! She even said if you add water to lye (instead of lye to water) bad things can happen. It's no joke- it has to be done carefully, intentionally.

In other translations, more emphasis is put on the image of a furnace and refining metal- which is a process of exposing metals to extreme heat in order to make them stronger and pure.

Honestly, there are times when things seem so tough that I'm ready to give up on this. Times when I see no way out. Times when this thing called faith seems way too dangerous for me. However, I've realized that those are the times that will refine me, make me stronger, into something better. A certain muscle-bound governor coined the phrase, "No pain, no gain." Unfortunately, this is true more often than it is not.

Faith is dangerous, faith is scary, faith is unsettling...and yet, we trust that in the end we are being made clean by what God did for us through Christ. I could go on about lye soap and how cool that image is, but i'd rather let you read what I've learned from. Here is another link about this ancient way of making soap. You know... before there were ten different scents!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Finding Your Stride

"One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong,and that you, O Lord, are loving. Surely you will reward each person according to what he has done." Psalm 62:11-12 (NIV)

I saw this story on E:60- an ESPN show that features more human-interest sports stories. Take a minute to watch a clip on youtube

or watch the watch the full story

The first thing I thought of was Forrest Gump's run. "The Raven" has been called "...a real Gump," but Kraft is real, true, and dedicated. 

I'll admit to you. For the majority of the time I've served as a spiritual leader, my personal spiritual life has been lacking. It's easy to let it slip. I convince myself that I've got more important things to do...plan this trip, write this curriculum, go to this event... I don't have any problem coming up with excuses not to spend time allowing God to tend to my soul. Sure, I'd start a new devotional book and be really into it until something threw me out of my rhythm- and again I'd put time with God on the back burner. 

However, in the past 5+ months, I've managed to stay on a regular schedule of reading and spending time diving into God's word. And I've noticed results. I feel incomplete without that time now. I feel more patient, and more importantly- I feel open to what God may have to say to me through scriptures and the thoughts of others. But now I know there's something else I've neglected- my prayer life. Soon I'll start setting aside more time with God... I hope that God will assist me in allowing this time to transform my life to be more like Christ daily. 

This week. I challenge you to find your stride- dedicate 10 minutes to God. Read, pray, or maybe just sit in silence.... Strive to make it a part of your lifestyle...who knows, maybe 30 years from now you'll be as dedicated to God as "The Raven" is to running. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

Was that for Me?

Do you ever read the preface to books? I usually don't. I've never completely understood them- the book starts at Chapter 1, right? So why should I read anything before that?

"God-of-the-Angel-Armies gave me this Message for them, for all the people and for the priests: "When you held  fasting every fifth and seventh month all these seventy years, were you doing it for me? And when you held feasts, was that for me? Hardly. You're interested in religion, I'm interested in people." Zechariah 7: 4-6 (The Message)

Often times we flip right past the Old Testament. We skip by the books with the names we can't pronounce and the odd stories that we struggle to understand. We get to the "good stuff"- the stories about Jesus and the teachings of Peter and Paul. But we've ignored the preface- the reason for those stories....the explanations that help us understand what Jesus and Paul are talking about. 

Zechariah's words are put into action by Christ. Jesus annoyed the Pharisees of his day because he cared about people more than he cared about religion. He dismissed rules so that he could help people. That was extremely irritating for the class of people that knew the law (religion) well, and expected Jesus to abide by it....even to the point of ignoring people to follow the rules. Of course, Jesus attended to people, and suffered the consequences.

I think sometimes we get too swept up in our own religion- we think we know what's right and expect others to know as well. So when they mess up, we lack compassion. I know I often get caught up in what "needs" to be done for church...and I wonder how many people I've not cared for because I'm worried about the tasks of church & religion.

Care more about people than you do about religion. 

Monday, May 11, 2009

Confront and Confess

In recent conversations and some of the reading I've been doing, I've 
been encouraged to be more bold with my faith, and more transparent about my life. So I'd like to share this: 

Last week I was playing a softball game with some of the men from our 
church. During the last few games, I had grown tired of hearing my teammates complain about bad calls. It had eaten at me for a while. So when a few of our players 
began pleading a case to an umpire, I rolled my eyes and stated (loud 
enough to be heard over the banter), "Just Shut up."

I went on to state that I was tired of our complaining. It made the 
game less enjoyable. It made us look like whiners. I wondered how we 
were being Christ to the umpires as we questioned every close call. I 
wondered what image of Christ we were presenting to those within earshot.

However, I failed to be Christ-like to my own teammates. I 
unneccessarily scolded them, spoke to them in a very un-Christian way. 
Sure, my intentions may have been good- to get the guys to glorify God 
through their actions (even on the softball field), but I did it all 
wrong. After the game, I did take time to apologize and explain my frustrations. I hope that the team can, 1) forgive me, and 2) begin to make an effort to live as we are called, even on the field of competition.

I think sometimes I take this whole Christianity thing too lightly. I 
struggle to let it direct my entire life. I know i've been the one 
complaining and arguing before, but I showed little patience for my teammates. And, as evidenced in the story, I've definitely lost my temper once in a while.

What kind of life do we lead when we aren't at church? What do our actions say about Christ when we are competing, stressed, irritated...? Are we encouraging each other to live the gospel daily?

God wants to change every part of your life, not just the parts you're 
comfortable being Christ-like in...all of it. What are you holding on 
to? Where in your life do you need to be transformed? Be unashamedly Christ-like.

"In everything, set them an example by doing what is good. IN your teaching show integrity, seriousness and soundness of speech that cannot be condemned, so that those who oppose you may be ashamed because they have nothing bad to say about us." Titus 2: 7

Monday, May 4, 2009

Alone, Together

Have you ever had that feeling? The one where something doesn't feel right, there's something missing, maybe a sinking feeling and you're not sure how to get rid of it? It's not unusual.

We're called to a life set apart from the rest of the world. As Christians, we've set our eyes on a prize that's bigger than any that this world can offer. But doing this can often lead us to feel alone- like we're missing something right in front of us... because we are.

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are n the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV)

The writer of Hebrews understood just how lonely it can be living a life in this world, but set apart from this world. It can be difficult, and as we realize that we're missing things that others aren't, it can be lonely. But we're not alone. We have each other for encouragement. Our separation from the world makes our attachment to a church body all the more important. The Christian community helps us to keep focused on our goal - living a life according to our calling. It also offers a place where we don't feel so out of place.

This week, seek community. Seek to be in the presence of others. If you're feeling drained and alone, find encouragement by being with those who are also set apart.