Tuesday, February 14, 2017

God Doesn't Use just Marrieds.

Contrary to popular belief, I'm actually pro-Valentines Day.

I love watching couples try to make the other feel important (and often, embarassed, ha!). Sometimes even us Singletons get noticed... such as the older man in the grocery store who stopped me to say, "Do colors really make a difference in the roses? Do they actually mean something?" So after telling him, "Don't get yellow: those mean friendship!" I went on to say something like, "But don't take my word for it: my favorite flower is a carnation! That's probably why I'm single!" (As I am laughing out loud by this point.) To which he responds, "Which is hard to believe, such a pretty girl like yourself!" #complimenttaken

That said, if you find yourself with someone, either married or dating and you think, "I hate Valentines Day. I love them every day: why do I have to go out of my way to show them one day a year?!" If you say that to me, I'll respond, "Why NOT go out of your any day- EVERY day to show them? Even if it is just flowers? Or a candy bar? Or doing the dishes?! WHY NOT?!"

For those of us that are single, however, depending on where we are mentally, spiritually, etc: Valentines can be a really, really hard day. I look back on my life and I'm just so grateful for the grace that God has poured over me... for even the work that I have done to get to where I am today.. that today, February 14, 2017: I am not bitter that I am single.

Some of you reading this may be divorced or separated. Some of you reading this may be a widow or a widower and for you, dear reader: I have no words. I can not imagine the pain that you have gone through, the thoughts you hear and have had to conquer or push away. But there is always hope. But not the hope you immediately think of.. you know, the-meeting-your-future-spouse-sort-of-hope... but the deep-rooted, God-inspired hope that He is for you, not against you (Psalm 56:9)... the hope that reminds you God has a purpose and plan for you (Psalm 139; Philippians 2:12,13) and that God is not done working on you (Philippians 1:6).

My best friend has encouraged me in the past to perhaps do more writing on explaining to marrieds/society what it's like to be single in today's culture.. especially, the Christian Culture. Perhaps someday I will, but for now, to you married's, I will exhort you to know and realize: Marriage is NOT a stage of life. God does NOT have marriage for everyone... including but not limited to, those who have the deep desire for it. Desires are not necessarily from God- neither are they evil if not: they are sometimes, just that: human desires. So again, please know that marriage is not a stage. No where in Scripture do we find, "When you turn ___ age or When you hit this level of maturity then you'll get married." But also, for the record, neither will you find, "If you just have more faith, if you just keep asking" or my [least] favorite, "If you just forget about men [or women], then that person will come into  your life.  SIDE NOTE: IF YOU DARE SAY THIS TO MY FACE, YOU MAY END UP WITH A BROKEN NOSE. End Note. (And also, because Scripture would push us to press IN to those desires and to ask God to fulfill our petition and need, but, that's another blog for another time.)

But dear Singles, we TOO have a responsibility: TO LIVE THE LIFE HE HAS CALLED US TO LIVE: RIGHT NOW. (Marrieds: this goes for you as well, as we all know that "the best is yet to come" thought does not end with "I Do's".) We can not live our lives in the future- we can only live them right now. We can not be entrusted with future responsibilities (get marriage out of your mind) if we are not being faithful where we currently are. If we are not grateful now with what and Whom (and whoms, that's right, I made up a word) He has given us NOW, then we will never be grateful later in life, even if/when you have them.

Have you ever come across an ungrateful person? A person who is always complaining? A person who sours your next few minutes to hours after coming away from them? Then know this, dear reader: you will become that very person if you do not check yourself.

So maybe tonight dear reader, you need to grab your Bible or watch a sermon online to distract yourself from watching a Hallmark movie. (Or just write a blog post like I've just done;) Or maybe you just need to hit your knees and pray for God's peace to wrap you up tonight. You know what, maybe you just need to throw on a war movie (like I do nearly ever Valentines Day)... and you know what? That's okay. God has you in His hand. He knows your heart, your desires-- and He knows how and when He'll fulfill or even change those desires.

Rest tonight, beloved. For He gives to His beloved rest. (Psalm 4:8)

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Weight vs. Sin

 "...Let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus..." Hebrews 12:1b



Did you catch it? Did you catch that the words "weight" and "sin" are separate? Did you see that they are separated by a comma? DO NOT MISS THAT: THAT IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT. Go ahead and read it again. I'll wait.

Okay, but really. They are two separate words. Two separate definitions. 

weight: Gk. onkon = bulk, encumbrance
sin: Gk amartian = sin, failure

Let me tell you, I've have had a journey with these words. This verse has liberated me time and time again and it [Lord willing] always will. 

I often teach the practical difference of these two words in one shot. I HATE RUNNING OR WORKING OUT WITH LONG SLEEVES ON. Like, hate hate hate! Now for me, I'm not a professional runner or professional weight lifter. But here's the thing: running or lifting weights with long sleeves on isn't wrong, in fact, A LOT of people wear them when working out. But for me? IT'S A HINDRANCE. I get too hot, or I have to keep pushing my sleeves up, etc. Do you see what I'm saying here? 

There are things in our lives as believers that we do which is SIN. Engaging in gossip, sex outside of marriage, thinking more highly of ourselves than we ought, coveting, etc: these things are sin. HINDRANCES, however, do not necessarily look like these. Let me give a few examples from my own journey in this.

Hindrances for me look like: going home every night from work and just watching tv or movies. Hindrances to me look like sleeping in til the last second, every day before work (so I don't have my quiet time). Hindrances to me look like watching rated R movies or tv shows. Hindrances to me look like binge watching romantic Hallmark movies. Hindrances to me look like leaving immediately after church on Sundays (repeatedly) and not engaging with those around me. 

Are these things sin? Not at all. But what I found in my life was that I wasn't purposely being with God or studying more about Him. I wasn't forcing myself to get to know Him and His thoughts, His dreams for me or His word. I found myself with so much alone time that I just talked to myself all the time about how little my job paid, how I'm single when all my friends are married and how God was at work in everyone else's lives except my own. All I did was focus on what I didn't have instead of what I DID have.

It was around this time that I encountered two life-changing things: the Experiencing God study, and God's voice in my mind telling me, "Put away the tv/movies Monday through Thursday". 

In the EG study, you are challenged to pray, "God, open my eyes to where You are at work around me and in me" DAILY. So then, in combination with eliminating the tv and movies, I found myself being so much more aware of His presence in my world- and my life. More and more I found myself disliking the sin of sex, infidelity and selfish living that is so promoted in so much of our tv and movies today. I was reading more and more, be it novels or be it Christian Living books or books about God. 

There was less trash in my brain, and noticing more and more of God at work. 

These are just simple examples from my simple life of what the differences are between sin and weight (hindrances). I have many, many more, as I am sure so do you. And you know what? We'll never be perfect. We'll never attain perfection and never sin while here on this earth, but what we ARE called to do is to run the race that is set before us

So dear Beloved, begin to peel off that which is not only wrong, but also which hinders. Experience the freedom the God longs for you to live in. Let my life be an example to you that it IS possible.

 It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. (Gal 5:1) 

Bondage and complacency was never meant to be comfortable or livable. 






Thursday, September 15, 2016

34 Blessings!

3-4

Like, 34 years of being alive.
I'm impressed, actually.

Well, every year I begin my "come back" from taking a hiatus in writing, and write a post on the number of blessings (corresponding to the number of years I've been alive, of course) that happened the previous year. (I also always vow to write and post more frequently, insert eye-rolling emoji here.)

In no particular order, here we go:

1.) I'm still alive. (Actually, I'd rather be with Jesus, but, I'll take this.)
2.) Pretty sure I figured out my allergy, or at least, discovered what was making me borderline miserable. (Thanks Dairy, thanks  A  LOT.)
3.) Survived a re-hurt heart.
4.) Grew closer to a family that I have come to thoroughly enjoy and respect.
5.) Helped lead worship at my favorite day-of-the-year event: Simply Worship. (That was a Top 10 life-moment for me, really.)
6.) Had an amazing Thanksgiving. #somuchlaughter
7.) Grew closer to my BFFL (of now 15 years)
8.) Spoke up for myself more than I ever have. (And have SO FAR left to go).
9.) Got an under-cut hairstyle.
10.) Got an A-symmetrical hairstyle.
11.) Got more white hair. (Seriously, I love it now.)
12.) Got to be a shoulder for a couple of people to cry on. (I recommend being that person to others. It reminds you there's more to life than what just you're going through.
13.) COFFEE
14.) COFFEE
15.) COFFEE
16.) Which reminds me: I found out Gilmore Girls is coming out with 4 new episodes. (Hey, don't judge!)
17.) Realized how  much I love my co-workers even more than I thought.
18.) Had some AMAZING kids in my room.
19.) Learned to deadlift.
20.) Learned that sometimes it really is possible to agree to disagree.
21.) READ SOME AMAZING AMAZING BOOKS. (Harry Potter, Narnia, Lone Survivor, the Last Jihad, just to name a few.)
22.) Bought  my first pair of Converse.
23.) Had some amazing quiet times with God Almighty.
24.) Had an AMAZING summer at camp.
25.) WATCHED GOD PROVIDE FOR ME OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND WATCHED GOD PROVIDE FOR ME OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER ANDWATCHED GOD PROVIDE FOR ME OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER ANDWATCHED GOD PROVIDE FOR ME OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER ANDWATCHED GOD PROVIDE FOR ME OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER ANDWATCHED GOD PROVIDE FOR ME OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER ANDWATCHED GOD PROVIDE FOR ME OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND OVER AND.... No guys, #BUTREALLY
26.) Applied to a Worship School
27.) Got accepted to said Worship School.
28.) Watched as my Church family grew and grew closer to God.
29.) Met some amazing new people.
30.) Got my favoritist bedroom that I have ever had.
31.) Learned that it's okay to enjoy time off and not feel guilty. (Wait, I'm still learning that?!)
32.) Got a new lap top. The kind in which you touch the screen.  A M A Z I N G!!! (Just one problem though: I forget all the others DON'T!)
33.) Learned (moreso) that life was truly created to be lived in community: not by yourself. (That's PRIDE. That's a sin. That causes you to be more like the Devil than God. Just sayin'.)
34.) Realizing that I can't pick which blessing to end on isn't really a problem-- it's a blessing.

So Lord, as I enter this year: make me more like You. Help me to love you more this year than I did last year. Open my eyes to how you see others: and give me your heart to serve them. Burden me who to pray for and how- and when. And Lord? Even so, come.

<3

Monday, February 22, 2016

The Act of Studying

People who are in love study each other. Have you ever noticed that?

They spend time with each other. They watch them: how they act, react and rest. How they are with their friends and how they are with strangers. What makes them laugh, cry and even tick. What makes them feel confident and what makes them feel insecure. What dreams they have to pursue and what scares them into not wanting to try.

Heck, even if you have just a solid crush and are intrigued by someone you do that.

Just in a new friendships we do that.

So, dear Beloved one of God:

How come we don't study Him?

Before I really begin, know this: studying God can many times lead to knowing about Him and just trying to please Him: That is not what I want our "end game" to be.

But let's take a look at our Bibles, shall we? What is most marked? Most memorized? Is it the four books of the New Testament? Perhaps Psalm 23 or Psalm 139, for when we need comfort or a confidence boost? What about Philippians 4:13, of course: we need that verse for when we feel like we can't do something, right?

Here's the shame in this: THERE ARE THOUSANDS OF VERSES THAT WE HAVE PROBABLY NEVER READ: AND GOD BREATHED THOSE VERSES INTO BEING.

I get it, believe me, I do. I even graduated from a four-year intensive studying Bible school, and I can't always explain every verse, every story, every law and every person. I can say this, however: every word is important. Every person is important. Every law is important. Every parable is important. Every confusing scripture and story in Revelation is important.

Don't take my word for it. 2 Timothy 3:16,17 "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man (and woman) of God may be complete [and] equipped..." There you have it my friend. It doesn't say, "The New Testament scripture only is breathed out by God..." It doesn't say, "Just the red letters are breathed out by God..." It doesn't say, "Just the nice stories are breathed out by God..." And it definitely doesn't say, "Only the stuff you understand is breathed out by God."

ALL. All means All. 

And again, I get it. Old Testament? Some of those chapters and books are SO HARD to understand. So much blood. So many rules. The first 11 chapters of Genesis are THE most debated and torn apart Scriptures throughout History. But do you know why? Do you know what you believe? Do you believe in a literal 6-day Creation or do you believe that there was some time for the dinosaurs to live and go extinct? Do you know why God commanded there to be the shedding of blood for forgiveness? (And how that explains why Jesus had to shed His blood for us?)

Do you understand why the Jews went from loving Jesus to demanding His death? Do you understand how incredibly important it is to understand what is going on in the Middle East today (which begins in, Genesis.) Do you understand why claiming Philippians 4:13 just to help get you through the day is actually taking it out of context? Have you even attempted to study the Book of Revelation? Do you understand who "the Woman and the Dragon" are? Do you understand the difference between the Bema Seat and the Great White Throne judgement? Do you believe in the physical return of Jesus? Do you know what the last sentence of the Bible is?

Do you know that Scripture wasn't written in English? That in the New Testament, for example, the Greek word for love has four different definitions? Do you know that in knowing some of the original language(s) can radically change the context of a verse?

Yes, I know, dear friend, that we can totally get carried away in our "studying for and of the Lord". I understand that we can focus so much on translations, stories and interpretations that we begin to debate and argue with fellow believers, even non-believers. I don't agree in breaking fellowship with another Christian friend just because they believe in the "Gap Theory" (that God sort of took a break from creating for a few "years" after Genesis 1:2). However, I don't agree with just, "well, someday it'll all just be figured out" or the, "Well, that won't help me grow closer to God: that'll just confuse me, so I don't worry about it." (In fact, I beg to differ on that! Big Time!)

I'm also not saying that we all need to desire to be like CS Lewis or a John Piper (or my friend JohnMark). We don't all need to be the deepest and most introspective believers that we know. We don't have to memorize entire books of the Bible to impress God or to show that we love Him.

But just like a husband and wife can't ignore all the fears, pet peeves and hard truths about their spouse: Neither can we just close a blind eye to that which God has revealed about Himself-- in and through His Word.

"Incline [our] heart(s) to Your Testimonies, and not to selfish gain! Turn [our] eyes from looking at worthless things; and give [us] life in Your ways... [May] our hearts stand in awe of Your words. [May we] rejoice at Your word like one who finds great spoil." Psalm 119:36-37,161-162


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Don't be afraid to read books, commentaries or even write your pastors or others! I would suggest reading even varying view points, all while asking the Spirit to bring more of Himself in "wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of [Jesus], having the eyes of your heart enlightened." Ephesians 1:17,18a

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Be Careful Little Eyes What You See

"Purity is a direction- not a line." is a statement I heard as a teenager from Joshua Harris, and little did I know its impact on me even almost 20 years later. I say this statement to those who say, "well, as long as I don't do this", or, "as long as I don't do that". And as someone that once walked away from the Lord, I know this statement to be way truer than most realize. 

Though that line is often shared in regards to one's virginity or "physical purity" (that is another topic for another day), I want to apply this line to our every day lives. King David wrote,"I will walk with integrity of heart within my house; I will not set before my eyes anything that is worthless... I will know nothing of evil." (Psalm 101:2b,3a,4b) How many of us can say this? Harder yet, how many of us want to say this?

For some reason, I have always sensed that the majority of believers have a sin (or more than one) that they are prone to fight and struggle with. One of my particular sins is this: laziness. And for years I became that person who worked, went home, watched movies, went to bed and repeated that cycle. Now, what I am NOT saying is this: that movies are evil and from Satan and that a single adult who has no family to take care of is sinning if they go home and do nothing but watch movies. However, what I AM saying is that, for me, I was creating a habit of avoidance and creating a habit of laziness. 

About a year or so after I repented and turned back to the Lord, I was faced with the realization of two things: the addiction to tv and movies and the lack of discipline in my time with the Lord. Is it of coincidence that I saw those two realities at the same time? I think not. 

Psalm 106:36 says, "They served their idols, which became a snare to them." I think most believers often believe that idols are either, a.) handmade wooden/metal statues or b.) a negative feeling, object or pursuit. But [most of the time]: they are not. An idol is anything that you deem more important than God. Which while it seems like that would be easy to see and define in your own life is not actually that easy. Let me help you with one simple question: Who or what do you spend most of your day thinking about and pursuing? (Now, let me clarify, if you are married, then yes, you better spend some of your day thinking about your spouse and/or family.)

Dietrich Bonhoffer said, "Satan does not fill us with hatred of God but with forgetfulness of God." So this is where I found myself: that my in my addiction to tv and movies- I had forgotten about God. I did not hate Him (heck! I just turned my life around!), but I had found myself filling my "life" with "so much" that I did not spend time with Him. Mark 9:43-48 tells us, "...if your hand causes you to sin: cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands and go to hell." Whelp. So I did something radical: I 'vowed' to stop watching tv and movies throughout the week. Now listen, I know that many of you are thinking, "Whatever lady. I'm not addicted to tv or movies or to anything for that matter. I can stop any of it at any time." Then you, my friend, are who I'm talking to. DO IT. 

For myself, I had found that I couldn't go another day without finding out how the next episode or series finale ended. I couldn't wait for so and so to get together with so and so. I was so caught up in the intense drama that it almost made me feel like I was involved in it myself. [Dear Grey's Anatomy watchers: seriously. How. many. dramas. can one. person. go. through?! I had to stop after the plane crash!]  Or, do you find yourself secretly loving the love/sex scenes in shows and movies? I am not one who personally struggles with pornography, but I can tell you that those scenes in no way shape or form help me in my loneliness of being single or in my pursuit of becoming holy. [And if you, dear friend, are one who does struggle with the sin of pornography, RUN. James 4:7 says to "Resist the devil and he will flee."] Maybe none of these tv/movies are your thing: maybe it's sports. If your team doesn't win, does it affect your attitude for the rest of the day or the days following? Do you refuse to spend time with friends or family if it interferes with a game? What if you can't watch it or record it: does it affect you inwardly? 

My follow-up question for you after answering the above is this:

Are you as upset in missing your time with the Lord each day as you are in missing that tv show/movie/sports game?

Now hear me, dear brother/sister: I am NOT saying that you enjoying tv/movies/sports every night after work is wrong or sinful. I do believe that relaxation is important in processing life. However, I think too often we as believers are more upset about what happens on our tvs than what happens in the real world. Do you get more upset in watching a movie than you do in watching the News every day? Is watching a sunset for you boring? Are you too tired to have a conversation with your spouse or kid than you are in watching something on tv?

Oh that we would be like the Psalmist in Psalm 119:36-38! "Incline my heart to Your testimonies, and not to selfish gain! TURN MY EYES FROM LOOKING AT WORTHLESS THINGS; and give me life in Your ways. Conform to Your servant Your promise , that You may be feared."

"Jesus Christ, who went through hell for you, can give you the power you need to overcome the worst kind of condition in your life." Charles Swindoll, David



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For those who are thinking I'm far from perfect: YOU ARE RIGHT! Laziness is still a tremendous, on-going battle of mine. It's been about two years now of my no tv/movies throughout the week, and it has made a HUGE difference in my life. I read more, I watch more sermons... but it doesn't mean that I don't have my times of "too much" on the weekends. (Dang those Hallmark Movies!) In fact, God recently has convicted me of my indulgence on the weekends... but I am ever thankful for a God who covers His grace over my sin -- and shame. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Dear Christians: Stop Being Surprised

I actually really try to not write controversial things. Political or religious... but in the last few years as more and more people connect on Social Media and get more and more bold, I've noticed a trend that I just can not take any more:

Christians being surprised by the world offending them.

So let's do some studying together, shall we? (And by that I mean, we won't even come close to studying all that Scripture teaches us about "the World vs. 'Us'".)

John 15:19 "If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own, but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore THE WORLD HATES YOU." (emphasis mine)

So by looking at this literally: Do we hate the world? Or does it hate us? And then after pondering that for a few moments, ask yourself this: this was written more than 2000 years ago: why are you surprised? Let's keep studying.

John 17:15-17 "I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world.... Sanctify them in the truth, Your word is truth."

The moment that you repented and accepted Christ as your Saviour: Did you die (or get raptured) and go straight to heaven? No, of course not! God has work for you to do! Second question: Who's the evil one? Is it Starbucks? (Gosh: let them have beautiful design-freeish cups, will you?!) Obama? Companies that fund LGBTQ agendas? NO. The evil one is Satan. (And I could not find a solid answer as to how many times he is mentioned in Scripture, but I'm going to say hundreds. Whether it was him as the serpent in Genesis, or him as Lucifer or him as our adversary, etc.) Third question: How does one become sanctified (purified)? Well, how does gold or silver become purified? Fire, and then more fire. And how does it tell us we become pure? In His truth- His word. (And the various trials we go through (James 1:2-4).

Let's keep going. So, we "got saved" (excuse the Christian lingo): We realize we don't go to heaven right away, He wants us here to ....?

John 17: 23 "I in them (believers) and You in Me (the Father and Jesus) that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent me and loved them (the World)..."

So there's a lot in that: but really quick: God is triune. God the Father sent God the Son (Jesus) (and later sent the Spirit at Pentecost) so that what: That the world may know that the Father sent Jesus because He love[s] the World. Before you say, "WHAT?".. may I remind you of John 3:16, "For God so loved the World..." And, believe it or not, dear brother and sister: You were once of the world. [In fact, the other point in the verse alone is that the unity of believers is what is supposed to draw the world to us, but that'll be another blog and study for another day.]

The last Scripture to study is this: THE FOUR GOSPELS. And I am not being facetious. If you look at Jesus' interactions with people you will see this: Gentleness and severe Rebuking. Who was He gentle with? Those who needed Him- and wanted Him. But who did He rebuke severely? THE RELIGIOUS LEADERS. The day that He cleared the temple (Luke 19): Did he yell at those bringing money and animals to sacrifice? No. He yelled at the RELIGIOUS LEADERS. And why? Because they were supposed to be teaching the truth but told lies instead. Did He rebuke the woman caught in adultery (John 8) or did He rebuke those were condemning her? The ones condemning her. Even deeper, as He was dying on the cross, what did He say? "Father forgive them, for they know not what they do." (Luke 23:34)

So, after studying even just these few verses: Who are you more like? The religious leaders, who were pious and condemning? Or perhaps you pray to be more like the woman with the alabaster box in Matthew 26 (and Mark 14 and John 12) who knew the cost of what Jesus did for her and so she tried to show her love and service to Him by pouring perfume (that cost her about a years' wages) over His head and feet?

Do you know the cost of what Jesus did for us? Of what He willingly suffered, died and rose again for for us? Because I would like to think that if we truly knew the depths of our sin that He covered and washed away and if we truly knew the depths of His love for us: then we wouldn't be condemning people...

We would be loving them.

"I do not care how long you have been a Christian, you are nothing but a sinner saved by the grace of God." D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones

Oh that we would be like David in Psalm 35 as he describes the intensity he felt for his enemies (that were trying to kill him, by the way- not taking Christmas out of Holiday Greetings)....

But I, when they were sick-I wore sackcloth; I afflicted myself with fasting; 
I prayed with head bowed on my chest. I went about as though I grieved for my friend or my brother, as one who laments his mother. I bowed down in mourning." Psam 35:13,14


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Disclaimer:
This is in no way, shape or form an exhaustive study on this "subject". There are literally dozens to hundreds of more verses to study and learn from. I also do not believe that this means to not evangelize or to not share hard truth in love, and to not call sin SIN when we need to. However, we as believers are not going to save the World: Jesus is. America is not heaven. In fact, America is over-privileged and has become a health and wealth gospel-focused Country, which is NOT BIBLICAL. This world will only get worse and worse (environmentally, politically and spiritually) until Jesus returns. (Unless, of course, you are an Amillenialist, in which case, that could be a blog post for another time. ;) )




Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The Reality of Mountain Tops

The reality of Mountain Tops is this:
You can not live there.

I love to worship God. I love to worship Him when it's just me (and my coffee)... I love to worship Him with friends... in corporate worship at church. (Yes, we also [can] worship God in our work, talents and giving [time and finances] and enjoy those times as well. But for the purpose of this blog, "worship" will be in reference to prayer, reflection and/or singing of praise to God.)

This past weekend I attended the Simply Worship conference in Lexington, MA.  (www.simplyworshipconference.com) This conference is designed to encourage and refresh worship leaders and teams throughout New England. A one day conference to meet others- learn new skills or tricks of the trade- and to corporately worship the Almighty God without the pressure of key changes or  "what's next" mentality. (That is, of course, unless you're on one of the leading teams, in that case... it becomes an exciting reality to think that every. person. in that room is there because they WANT to grow closer to the Lord!)

Okay, as I was saying.
After attending these conferences, my heart aches. No, my soul aches. Throughout the day, the prayer of "Even so, Come!" never ceases to come from lips. In the congregation I'm able to soak in the presence of God in a way in which is very rare in the other 364 days of the year. There is no "fighting tooth and nail" to get people to raise their hands to God or sing. In fact, as much as I love singing and leading others to praise God: I very rarely sing... I just sit or stand back and listen to the hundreds of voices around me... all expressing praise and adoration to the same God I love, know and am so thankful for. At about 5:30 pm on those Saturdays though, the reality of the real world kicks in....Of leading worship the next day....Of work and the exhaustion and stress it causes. The "where will the money for this months bills" kicks in. The loneliness kicks in.

This year (sickness aside) was no different. And as I have driven around the last few days while listening to the 10,000 Fathers (Aaron Keyes, Founder: they were at the conference as well) most recent album, "Invitation"... I'm tearing up, just asking God, "Why couldn't You have come back that day?" And today, today God whispered, "Because you were not made to live on the mountain tops." 

In his book, "The Heavenly Man", Brother Yun answers the question, "If you could say one thing to Western Christians, what would you say?" He answers, "That you like to stay too long on your mountaintop experiences. But life can not be lived there.... It is in the valleys." Even now, think about what a mountaintop view brings you: breathtaking beauty of all that is around you. But look immediately around you: there is no life. No vegetation. The wind is often too strong - the air is often too cold and thin for life to exist. Now think of the valley: Luscious. Green. Life. Vegetation. Flowers.

Maybe we need to change our perspective of what valleys are. Valleys are where growth happen. Those daily moments with Him and His word. Those daily moments of praying without ceasing (1 Thess.5:17) when you forgot to put the water in for the coffee... when we're stuck in traffic (can I get an Amen from the Bostonians?)... when our kids (be it students or yours) are on our last nerve.

Maybe it's in those moments that He is closer to us than we think or feel- because we're not acknowledging that He's there. Maybe we don't see Him at work in us or around us because our eyes are focused on that school bell, that bill payment, that moment we put the kids to bed, that meeting that is giving us ulcers to think about, that moment that we can finally put our head on the pillow.

Maybe it's time that we acknowledge that as much as mountaintop views and moments are beautiful, refreshing and even needed- we can't live there. And instead of trying to reclaim those moments or praying for the next mountaintop, we prayed this:

"Open up our eyes to see You in the ordinary
we don't want to miss You anymore.
Open up every eye to see every day, everything is
burning with the glory of the Lord." (Aaron Keyes)