Monday, August 31, 2009

More than we realize

"But Moses said to God, 'Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?' " Exodus 3: 11

How serious do you take being called by God? Or have you ever thought about how you are called by God? It's a big deal to realize it and conduct yourself in an intentional way...let me explain.

During an American history course in college, we talked about the explorers that "discovered" things on the continent. Many of these men brought with them their religious beliefs. Some of them brought symbols- crosses and displayed them proudly: having someone process with a cross in the front of their expedition. They encountered native people, introduced them to their religion and their crosses. Then they introduced other things- disease, war, violence, greed.... Soon the native people began fleeing at the sight of a cross- it was no longer a symbol of grace but one of hate, death, and destruction.

Now, the details are a bit foggy for me and I can't seem to find my notes to double check, so forgive me if that's not a complete, accurate description. But it seems to me that the explorers hadn't taken seriously what it meant to be a follower and bear the mark of Christ... or maybe they had gotten swept up in the things of this world. But sometimes, we're not all that much different from them. We wear crosses as jewelery, we openly profess Christ as our savior and model for life...and then we lie, hurt, cheat, steal,... the list goes on.

I've often poked fun at Moses for questioning God. After all, who is he to think he knows better than God? But maybe he was just realizing what a huge responsibility it is to be a part of carrying out the will of God, of freeing humanity from their helpless state. I wonder if we approached being a part of the body of Christ in the world more carefully if we could avoid giving the wrong impression of what Christianity is about? What if instead of asking WWJD, we asked "How is this going to help or hinder the message that God is trying to speak to others through me?"

Just some thoughts. Thanks for reading. Go. Serve. Love.

Monday, August 24, 2009

What are you building?

"Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness." Matthew 9:35

Christ understood the challenges of his mission to make it known exactly how God planned on drawing all of humanity back to Himself. Because of this understanding, Jesus knew that the most effective way to spread the message and make God's love known is through interaction with people. God in flesh came to earth to live among us as an equal, experiencing the joy that comes in serving others and seeing their elation when they realize someone cares.

Over a month ago I had the privilege to speak with 8th and 9th graders at a church camp. During one of the messages I shared this quote with them:

"We build too many walls and not enough bridges." -Isaac Newton

I talked about how it was tempting to build walls for protection, to make us feel safe. Walls give us a place to call our own and help us to make sense of the world by compartmentalizing things...making sure everything has it's own space set apart (think an elementary school cafeteria tray). But, as a someone that is convinced that there is no hope but in Christ, we are called to spread the word, and as mentioned before- the best way to do that is to interact with people. But in putting up walls we prevent the forming of relationships based in Christ in the world outside the church walls. I feel like we're called to do the exact opposite: take what we know into the world and let it bleed... let it be (through us) a transforming power everywhere we go.

When I find something exciting, I want to share it with others so that they will enjoy it as well. How great is the news that we've been given the gift of grace...that God desires to be in a relationship no matter what. I can't speak for you, but it's hard to think about that and not feel somewhat excited.

This week, make an effort to build fewer walls, allow your faith to bleed into every part of your life. Build relationships with others so that you can help them build bridges to understanding God's wonderful news in Christ!

PS- Next week's devotion will mark the 100th post to I am working hard on it and I'm very excited about it. I hope you'll check in again next Monday!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Against all hope

Times are tough. Things seem to be getting better in the least that's what we keep hearing on the news. During times of struggle it is easy to start worrying about being self-sufficient, independent, and safe. When the going gets tough, it seems like second nature to draw all our belongings and trust only ourselves. However, we are called to something different. Trust in God's providence.

We are called to put our trust in a God that we believe is able to provide for and sustain us. Could it be that our "safety nets" are actually keeping us from furthering our trust and faith in the God that takes care of even the birds and lilies? Could our independence be inhibiting our dependence on God? But then again I see the other side: it would also be foolish to not use the power of reason that we were given in order to avoid hardships.

I don't want to tell you how to deal with the current economic situation, but I do find comfort in the fact that I worship a God that has promised some crazy things (or at least it seems crazy to us) ...and made good on them:

"Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."
Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead—since he was about a hundred years old—and that Sarah's womb was also dead. Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God," Acts 4: 18-20

May you hope in the God that created you and sustains you and perhaps your belief will also be "credited to [you] as righteousness." (Genesis 15: 6)

Monday, August 10, 2009

All in how you look at it.

Sitting on the back porch after dark a few days ago, something caught my eye in my peripheral. I saw movement in the dark corner of the yard. So I took a closer look, staring hard at the area where I saw movement....Nothing, couldn't see what it was. It was at this time that I remembered something from a psychology of perception course I took during college: "rods and cones"- look slightly away from the object, and.... a toad.
(Now for the technical explanation:There are basically two types of receptors in the eye that allow us to see- rods and cones. Cone receptors help us to see details and colors- cones are mostly located in the "macula" or focal point on the back of the eye. Rods capture big things, and things in peripheral, don't see color...thus making them more useful than cones as far as night vision. Rods are almost completely absent from the forementioned "macula" which is contains mostly cones... which explains why looking right at something in the dark actually inhibits your ability to see the object.) The picture above is a simple illustration I created, for more information and a detailed explanation about rods and cones, click here.

This got me thinking though. When we encounter problems in life, when things don't go our way or frustrate us, we seem to focus directly on that problem. We become determined to "figure it out" and "fix it." It can become an obsession until the problem is solved, all othere things take a back seat to the problem at hand. I'm speaking from experience. I am guilty of being encouraged to leave something alone, only to reply, "No, it's personal now."

What if instead of trying to fix every problem that comes along, we learn to roll with things- we learn to wait and see if the problem is really that bad, or maybe it wouldn't seem so bad if we changed how we looked at it? This week, when a problem comes along... try not to let it become the focus, and trying viewing it from different perspective. Take time and enjoy.

"Unless the LORD builds the house, its builders labor in vain. Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchmen stand guard in vain. In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat— for he grants sleep to those he loves." Psalm 127:1-2

Monday, August 3, 2009

A Crazy Thought

"Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish." Jonah 3: 9 (NIV)

The king of Nineveh suggests that the people of the great city may not be beyond saving... he calls for confession and for them to repent from their sinful ways. Maybe Nineveh won't "be overturned" (v. 4b) as the prophet Jonah had declared to the people of the city.

The thought of a merciful God is not exactly what most people picture when they think of the 'God of the Old Testament.' Usually, people think of a wrathful, warrior God in the Old Testament stories... so the king's hopes could easily be called overly optimistic. But then again, "Who knows?"

Trying to walk the path that Jesus walked can be an incredibly frustrating task, and frustrations can easily turn to guilt or hopelessness. We can start beating ourselves up over stumbles and struggles, and at these times it's easy to think that we are unforgivable. However, we must learn from the king: recognize your faults, repent, and ask for God's grace and forgiveness... for we know that we worship a God who freely gives grace to all that ask. We must stop limiting God by believing we know the limits of God's grace.

Trust in God's steadfast love, and let God be your provider.