Friday, June 11, 2010

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Sunday, June 6, 2010


You know how God tends to work in themes? For instance, for basically all of 2008, God was teaching me about trust. At times it seemed He had orchestrated everything in the entire universe to fall into place just so He could teach me something and prove He was there, that He had His hand in my life and was working on me.

Recently, God's been teaching me about the Holy Trinity. This isn't something I've ever really been passionate about or even cared to go into in-depth before. I've always been of the opinion that God is three and God is one and none of us can ever understand it, so why bother. Just know that Jesus and the Father are the same, but different, and equal. And honestly, I still kind of think that if that's as far as most people want to go with it, that's fine. But for whatever reason, God has decided that I have to go deeper than that right now.

Over the past three or four months, I've learned tons about the Trinity - tons more than anybody probably wants to read or is interested in hearing about. Some of it has already turned out to be useful; some of it is definitely going to be useful - I already know where; and some of it I'm sure I've already forgotten. But what's really been jumping out at me this week in particular is the whole idea of Jesus existing from the beginning of time. He was there with the Father before creation, and His birth was planned before the beginning of the world. (So was ours, by the way, if you want to read my last post, but that's not the point.)

Our pastor was talking this weekend about the "crimson thread" woven through the scriptures - the thread that ties the whole story together from Genesis to Revelation - and how Jesus Christ really is that thread. I've always known that was true, because Jesus obviously fulfilled so many Old Testament prophesies and there are New Testament prophesies about His second coming still to be fulfilled, but this morning I was shocked to find some cool information of my own.
Last week, God impressed on my heart to memorize Deuteronomy 6:4-9, which says: "Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your sons and shall talk of them when you sit in your house and when you walk by the way and when you lie down and when you rise up. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates." (NASB)

I have been seeing that verse everywhere recently, and have used it on so many different occasions. That's why when our pastor said something this morning about doorposts, it struck a chord with me. So I looked up the passage he was talking about. It was the command God gave the Israelites through Moses during Passover in Exodus 12:7, which says: "Moreover, they shall take some of the blood [of the lamb] and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses in which they eat it."

I had (I think) the coolest revelation today when I read that.

God commands that both the words of His commandments (in Deuteronomy 6) and the blood of the Passover lamb (in Exodus 12) be on the doorposts of His people's houses. And that is because they are the same thing.

The Word of God is the Lamb of God - Jesus Christ - and here He is mentioned in the Pentateuch - the first five books of the Bible, written by Moses long before Christ's birth! It might seem like a stretch if it weren't actually true that Jesus is called both the Word and the Lamb in the New Testament (and if we didn't know that God was just awesome enough to weave something like that into His book). I love how cool God is! It's like He put that in there just for fun.

Anyway, the whole point of this is that Christ was not a surprise to the Father - He planned for Him and paved the way for Him before the end of the first day. In fact, the Son was there with the Father, planning for His own birth and earthly ministry. But seeing those verses connected just affirms to me how much we as Christians are truly supposed to be called out by God. That's what the original Greek word for "church" means - "those who are called out." The Hebrews in Exodus were told to put the lamb's blood on their doorposts so that God would recognize them as His people and the plague would pass over their houses. In Deuteronomy we are commanded to remember God's Word - His commands and promises - and have those on our doorposts as well.

Is Jesus' name written on your house, your body? Are you visibly God's? Or I could ask the famous question: "If you were taken to trial for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?" The evidence should be abundant - from the entries in our checkbooks to what's found in (and on, in this case) our homes to - especially - the way we behave. I am going to take these verses literally and start tacking scripture verses up on my walls just to drive the point home, but mostly as a reminder to take these verses to heart. God's Word should be written all over our lives, both literally and metaphorically. We as the body of Christ have got to start creating some more evidence.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

The days that were ordained for me...

Today is my third wedding anniversary with my husband. We are so blessed to have one another and still be just as in love - or moreso - than when we got married. But I was thinking this morning about where we were one year ago today, on our second anniversary...

We were watching our little baby swim around in my tummy, seeing her face for the first time, not yet even knowing she was a girl. I remember how excited and amazed I felt knowing I was bringing life into the world, and how badly I just wanted her born so I could hold her and love her and she could start her life. 

My frame was not hidden from You,
When I was made in secret,
And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;
And in Your book were all written
The days that were ordained for me,
When as yet there was not one of them.
- Psalm 139:15-16

I read those verses this morning and lost my breath. 

That excitement that I felt during my pregnancy - that intense longing for Anna's life to begin so I could know her and watch her grow - God felt that for both of us (all of us) for millennia, even eternity, before we were born! I don't know why it surprised me - why should He rejoice less in the birth of His children than we do in ours? Yet still, I love that by making us parents, the Father gives us tiny glimpses into Himself and how much He loves us. He is the ultimate ultrasound machine!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Destroying Speculations and Lofty Things

I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. 
- Isaiah 49:25b

The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.
- Romans 16:20

I am beginning to get very angry with Satan. God has been revealing lie after lie to me - lies that I have believed in my heart and mind for my whole life. It is a theme He is teaching me on right now. He and I spent about two years on Faith and Trust; now it seems we have moved on to Truth.

I am grateful for the revelations - because who wants to continue to be fooled by a lie? - but still, it is with heartbreak I have had to admit over and over how wrong I have been. At least God is giving me lots of practice, so each time it happens I am less surprised and less resistant than before. But it is still difficult to let go of ideas and paradigms you have based your value system and life on.

For so long, I have gripped tightly to "the way I was raised," even when it contradicted the Word of God. (That is one of the worst parts - I have been trying to compromise where the rules do not bend, and now I have to confront my own sin.) Professing to be wise, I became a fool (Ro 1:22). It has only just recently struck me that "the way I was raised" isn't the way things always were, so it stands to reason that there was another way - a way that probably worked at least as well if not better - before.

I have become a victim of the very thing I have always spoken against - tradition. I have been doing things and believing things the way I have always done and believed them for no other reason than that it was the way I always had. I thought myself to be so unconstrained, so individual. What a fool.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 
- 1 John 4:1

I have been believing in things that, in many instances, were created by the whim of the "knowledge" of man. Entire worldviews and thought processes have been replaced because one day, thousands of years after the world was made, some philosopher had an idea and thought that they had finally managed to figure it all out. And we, arrogant creatures that we are, convince ourselves that all of civilization and the history of the universe has been leading up to this moment - that our knowledge is the best knowledge, that our generation is the generation whose discoveries can't be topped. 

Why can't we just go back to the original - the truest form of knowledge, the knowledge that comes from God? How can we possibly believe we can progress from there - that we can improve upon the knowledge of the Creator, who was before the beginning of time?

My entire world has turned upside down in the past few months since God began leading me on this journey. Everything I've ever "known" is now in question. Everything I've ever believed could have been a lie from the Father of lies. So yes, I must test the spirits. I want no more enemy strongholds in my brain. I have been fighting the war in my heart for years; now it is time to take the battle to another front.

We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.
- 2 Corinthians 10:5

Monday, May 3, 2010

Goodbye to the old, and a new start.

Is cleanliness really next to godliness? I am beginning to think not. It seems like the more I clean, the less time I find for Bible study. 

No, I haven't been cleaning nonstop for the past several weeks; that is not my excuse for not posting. But it is easy to always come up with some type of excuse - something around the house that needs to get done - to avoid Bible study when you know you really need it.

Hopefully I'll get back on track in my personal study soon. But mostly this post is to discuss my public study - that is, the blogging here and elsewhere. I think it's going to get an overhaul. For one, I think I'm abandoning the Proverbs 31 study. If you know me, this won't come as any surprise - I rarely finish projects like that. But I promise it is not for the reason you think.

It has recently come to my attention that I am a fraud. God has really laid it on my heart over the past several weeks that I need to be more transparent in my life. I don't think I'm alone in this struggle; I'm sure there are a lot of Christians who feel like I feel. That is - I think there are many Christians who don't feel free to admit their flaws and sins in front of the church. I think it's a shame, because the whole point of church is to find a community where you can fellowship and encourage one another. How can you encourage each other if you don't share your troubles with each other?

The good news is that I think I'm pulling out of this rut finally. First of all, this is the first time in my Christian walk that I've felt like God has been calling me to be this brutally honest, or at least it is the first time I've been willing to obey Him. Secondly, I am finally in a church where I feel comfortable actually executing this plan. 

Our church's mission is to be "real" and "relevant." For a while I didn't get it - I thought it was just the pastor's motto and a reminder to himself to preach in a way that helps people apply the Word to their lives. But I think I'm understanding it in a new way. I feel like the reason I haven't been able to open up to other Christians before now is that most of those I've met have forgotten that we are called to be both salt and light. Lots of us have got the whole "light" thing down - we turn on our cheerful smiles and speak Christianese to each other at church, saying, "Oh yes, I'll be praying for that" and "I felt the Holy Spirit calling me to do such and such today." And that's fine and good - in fact it's great. It is exactly how things should be. But when it comes to our problems, our sins, our secret thoughts, we don't change our behavior. We continue to act the same way we did before, and that, in my opinion (or at least in my life) is a lie.

Jesus said, "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men." (Matt 5:13)

Number one: we are the salt of the earth. So yes, we are kind of salty and dirty sometimes. God made us that way! Why do we deny this in front of each other, like other Christians aren't the same way and don't already know we are, too?

Number two: I believe that if we act like we have no flaws, we will lose at least half of the opportunities for ministry God puts before us. Nobody wants to ask a perfect person for help; nobody wants to go to somebody with no compassion and no similar experiences for advice. If my sister in Christ is struggling, I want her to know she can come to me unashamed because I've been just where she is. If not, then there is no point in counting it all joy when you face various trials, because you are just going to pretend those trials never happened and not be able to use them for anything.

Anyway, all this to say: I'm giving up writing the Bible studies, at least for the moment. You know why? Because I haven't been studying the Bible. I've been struggling in being obedient to God. I've been lazy. I want to be in the Word every day, and I talk a good game, but I'm batting .000 right now. Yes, writing the studies has (or at least had) been helping to keep me accountable for that, but that does not mean I should be publishing them on the internet. God forbid that my uninformed, untrained self posts something I was speculating about and then someone even less informed and trained gets the wrong idea from that post. I am a student of the Word, and not a teacher.

But more than that, I felt so convicted this past week during a Bible study that quoted Matthew 6:1-6:

"Be careful not to do your 'acts of righteousness' before men, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you."

So in short: I will continue blogging here about topics that interest me. They probably will be spiritual topics. There may even be entries to encourage others - but probably those will be youtube videos or quotes from others. I will not even attempt to organize my thoughts into any type of study for anybody but me, because until I have my own house in order, that would be ridiculous. Are all Christian bloggers supposed to stop blogging? Absolutely not - I gain great encouragement from them. Are all Christian bloggers doing it for earthly attention? Absolutely not - but I was. And so I'm closing the door on that sin, which is constantly crouching outside my door, so that it doesn't attack me when I peek out at it. And that's that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

God versus God

The pastor at my church is currently taking us through the book of Hebrews. The past few weeks, we have been spending a lot of time on the Tabernacle and the Old Covenant versus the New Covenant. His position is that the New Covenant is superior to the Old for lots of reasons (I'll go into some of them below). When he first started talking about that, I was really confused - how could one be superior to the other if both were made and put in place by God Himself? Certainly they were both under His divine sovereignty. Is our pastor saying that God somehow made a mistake with the first Covenant?

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, and God, in His infinite grace and patience, has been leading me through my confusion holding my hand. I think I've finally come to see just how this can be true without questioning God's omniscience and omnipotence. 

First off, lest you think I am making things up about the New Covenant being better than the Old, a few scriptures (all the emphases are mine):

"Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" - Acts 15:10 (Peter, in regards to a demand that the Gentiles who believed in Christ be circumcised and keep the Law)
"Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God; because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin." - Ro 3:19-20
"For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation." - Ro 4:14-15
"For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near. Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the whorshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins." - Heb 10:1-4

If you skipped over all the scripture references, like some of us are wont to do, I'll paraphrase: the Bible says that the purpose of the Law was to make man aware of his sin. There was no way for everyone to keep from breaking the Law all the time; if there were, God wouldn't have had to spend Leviticus and Deuteronomy outlining what sacrifices should be made for such-and-such a sin, and how to obtain forgiveness if you did this or that. Along with the Law came prescribed punishments because God foreknew that man would not be able to keep the Law.

The only problem is that the sacrifices weren't permanently cleansing. Over and over, every year, another goat and herd of cattle and several sheep met their deaths to atone for the sins of the Israelites. As my pastor put it this week: in order to receive their inheritance from the covenant (interesting fact: the Greek word for covenant - diathÄ“kÄ“ - is also the word for "will," as in your Last Will and Testament), something had to die. But the Law cannot change who we are; the sacrifices made could not keep the Israelites from sinning again. It is only Christ's blood that can do that. The difference between the two? Jesus Christ was God incarnate. He came and died, but - here's the important part - he didn't stay dead. Christ rose again, and His Holy Spirit is alive  in us, changing us from the inside out.

But here we are again, back at the same question: did God make a mistake when He handed down the Law to Moses? Did He not realize that the people would continue to sin, that we would need a true Savior? May it never be! (Sorry, I've been reading a lot of the book of Romans lately.)

But seriously: God didn't just one day decide He'd had enough and change the plans He'd made at the beginning of the universe. We know this because He told the Israelites long before Jesus was born that the Old Covenant wouldn't be enough:

"'Behold, days are coming,' declares the Lord, 'when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,' declares the Lord. 'But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,' declares the Lord, 'I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, "Know the Lord," for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,' declares the Lord, 'for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.'" - Jer 31:31-24

Yes, that bit about the law (lower-case "L" this time) being within us and written on our hearts refers to the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of the living God. Rest assured: He is not flying by the seat of His pants, nor did He make any mistake. The Maker of the Universe knew just what He was doing.

So why did He go about it the long way, you ask? I don't presume to know the heart of God, but it seems that there have been at least a few good consequences that came from going His way:
1) If God didn't first give us the Law, we wouldn't know we needed forgiveness. 
2) If we didn't try over and over to atone for our sins in our own strength - by sacrificing bulls and calfs and lambs - we wouldn't know that we couldn't do it. It is just another manifestation of that great verse that says, "when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Cor 12:10) It is only when we recognize our own helplessness that we truly rely on God, and thus see His strength. And only when we have seen His strength can we praise it fully.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Marriage: A Two-Headed Monster?

Some of you know that I am working on another blog studying through Proverbs 31. It's been an interesting experience for me, as I have never actually studied Proverbs 31 before. (I feel like I'm the only one.) Anyway, it has given me occasion to think a lot about the roles of women in marriage and the home, and in society in general, and I've been thinking about the way a lot of people look at those roles.

A lot of people have opinions on the idea of Biblical submission. It is hard for a lot of women, even Christian women, to swallow. In fact, even many men take issue with the idea of Ephesians 5:22-24, which says, "Wives, be subject to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body. But as the church is subject to Christ, so also the wives ought to be to their husbands in everything."

The trouble is that this verse gets thrown around and misused. Many women feel that this verse is used against them as a weapon of oppression in marriage. Some men and women think it says that women are inferior and second-rate. I don't think it says any of that.

Here's how I think of it:

The Biblical understanding of marriage is that husband and wife are united in one flesh (Mark 10:7-8). To put it more clearly, man and woman become one body. Now, every body needs a head. It is easiest when each body has one head. I could go off here on a tangent about how difficult life must be for Siamese twins who have different life goals and different love interests and all of that, but I think you get the point. Two heads mean two brains; two brains mean two sets of opinions and desires; two sets of opinions and desires mean a body that wants to go in two different directions.

You can see how when both husband and wife try to be the head of their marriage, it make it a lot more likely that the body will split in half through divorce. Or if the body doesn't split, there is constant turmoil, the heads constantly butting against one another.

Of course, you could choose to be passive-aggressive and stop listening to him if you wish, but a body that doesn't receive messages from its head is a body that is paralyzed. Spiritual paralysis isn't something I look forward to - how about you?

In this instance - as in most every instance - the Word of God is very practical. It makes perfect sense to have one head for the body, and one direction in which to move. 

But this is where everyone gets up in arms: God's Word says the head should be the man.

Why everyone assumes that this means God thinks women are inferior to men is beyond me. He never says that. I think the man is the head because - number one - it eliminates a lot of arguing over who it should be. If it's right there in God's word, then it saves a lot of stress if we will just listen to Him. Number two - and I'm just speculating here, but go with me - it might be just a little easier for women to swallow their pride and follow. Now, I'm not saying it's a cake-walk for us, but men are engineered to be competitive; it is a natural side-effect of testosterone. Whether you think that your man has a "right" to fight you for the right to head the household or not, maybe just letting him win this one could make the difference in your marriage between a life of stress and a life of harmony.

Let's face it: your man is not going to give up the fight. You have three choices: attempt to be a second head and risk constant strife or splitting apart, go the passive-aggressive route and don't fight him for headship but don't follow his lead either, or accept it and move on. After all, Ephesians 5 also commands men to love their wives, so if you're both living Biblical lives, he won't be leading you anywhere that will hurt you. If you trust him, give him the reigns. You might be surprised how easy it becomes with a little practice.