Thursday, April 27, 2017

Adoption

This week I've been studying the Holy Spirit and his purpose in the Christian life. Every time I read over those verses in Romans 8 about us being adopted as God's kids, it makes me smile. Probably because adoption is a very real part of who I am, how my family came to be, so perhaps it is a concept I can relate to on a different level than families who don't have the same frame of reference that I do.

I am also reading The 10 Critical Laws of Relatonship by Robb Thompson. Great book! I'm only on the second chapter, but I've found a lot of truth and information to chew on. It discusses defining relationships as well as why certain relationships fail and others succeed. Very inciteful!

Tonight, these two studies collided for me as only God can orchestrate. I love when that happens!

Romans 8:15 says that the Holy Spirit comes to us as the spirit of adoption, by which we are able to call God "Abba Father" or "Daddy God" as one translation puts it. So it is only by the Spirit of God that we are able to define our relationship with God. It is a part of his purpose to help us understand the closeness God wants to have with us as his children. Without the Spirit, we are continually comparing God and our relationship with him to earthly relationships, assigning human qualities to a perfect Father as we attempt to define our expectations. And we minimize his love and the intimacy he feels toward us.

There is something about being chosen, wanted, selected that validates us. It's more than "chance" that we are His. He searched for us and is still drawing us close to his heart.

Adopted love that is chosen and intentional. I have chosen to love complete strangers, not related by blood to me, and bring them to become a part of me. It was and is a very intentional choice I have made and it is not an easy choice, to be taken lightly. Love, true love is not a warm fuzzy feeling that grows and dies based on the moment. No, true love is a forever choice you have to make again and again, and that is what God has done for us. He adopted us, in our sin, in our ugliness, because he wanted to make us a part of himself. 

Our human minds can't understand it, but the Holy Spirit, as he reveals God's heart to us, helps us to get a better picture of the greatness of his love for and connection to us.

Monday, April 24, 2017

It Only Takes a Small Spark

Yesterday I was teaching my Sunday School class and just sharing some things that are coming in the near future with them. And their response was less than enthusiastic. I don't think they were being negative but there responses were pretty typical at RLC.

And this is why God has brought us to this place.

I understand hesitation when something new is thrown at you. We did a personality profile test/study at work a few years back and mine says "Hesitant to change. Give her your ideas and then leave her with it so she can process. She will come around and then be your most loyal supporter." Yeah, this defines me perfectly. :)

For me, the question is why are we so disinterested and apathetic to anyone's new ideas? Our responses squash their enthusiasm and make it difficult for them to pursue anything out of the norm. No wonder things are the same! We discourage change and progress by our attitudes. And attitudes are contagious! Good and bad. Positive and negative.

I've heard so many times how people want to grow the church and see change in our impact, but anything different or "not like we used to do it" gets a shrug or a "okay." We can't half-heartedly change or it isn't change at all. It's enough different to appease our need to feel like we are doing something without anything really being done. The appearance of change without change.

For me it comes down to a few things:
1. Do I trust God and trust that he is leading us? Yes
2. Do I trust my leaders are being led by God? Yes
Then what are we waiting for? The worse case scenario is that "it" (whatever new thing is presented to us) doesn't work and we go back to what we are comfortable with. THAT IS THE WORSE THING!! Or maybe the worse thing is doing nothing at all.

It only takes one person, filled with the power of God and enthusiastic about the new things coming to start a fire. And it looks like I'm gonna have to be that person (well in addition to the Pastor). I hope I'm not alone. Come on, let's do this!

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why Change?

As a creature of habit and structure, change is usually one of my least favorite things. But my church is in a new season, so God has been teaching me to not be scared of change. Normally, I would lean on the saying "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." I'm learning the problem is when you are stuck in a rut, a very nice, comfortable, safe rut, your perspective is tainted and you don't even realize when things are broken and need fixing. You are satisfied in your survival mode. But there are definitely reasons things need to change...

1. Because you don't get out of a rut by continuing to make the same back and forth movements. I'm definitely not one for off-roading, but I remember when I was younger, a friend and I took an afternoon ride in his go cart. It had just rained the night before. I had one condition, do not get stuck in the mud. And if you do, I am not helping you get out of it. I will sit right here in the go cart and you will just have to get out yourself. (I'm sure you all know where this is going by now.) It wasn't long into our joy ride that he decided it would be fun to rev up the little engine and go splashing through this big mud puddle. The only problem was there wasn't enough umph to get through the mud puddle and we got stuck in the middle. True to my promise, I stayed right in the seat while he tried to get us out. Back and forth. Back and forth. The rut got deeper and we got more and more stuck. It wasn't until his dad (who by now was probably worried) came to find us that the two of them were able to push us forward enough to get out of the rut and I was rescued. Something has to change to get us out of our rut. The front tires had to be moved far enough past the rut that we wouldn't roll back in and could have traction again to get moving forward. Change propels us forward. Status quo just digs a deeper and deeper rut, harder and harder to get out of. A 30 year rut is a deep rut that requires a big change to get out of.

2. Because a small intentional physical change, that may seem insignificant at the time, may be what you need to give you a change of perspective from self focused to kingdom focused. Hear me out. There is nothing spiritual about rearranging the platform or redecorating a church building, but any change, no matter how small, has a way of making us think about things differently. Goodness, I have been at my church for 30 years (and I'm not that old) and there are definitely small things I've never even thought about changing because "that's just the way it's always been" and I really don't care about the appearance of many things. I'd never thought about how the church looked to outsiders. Yes, I'm one of those people that decorate things in my house a certain way and leave them just like that unless I have a reason to change them. But when things start getting a little shook up physically, it has a way of shaking us up spiritually. Things we never would have even thought about (at least not me) make us view things differently. A change of perspective is a good thing that can put us on our toes and keep us excited and moving forward towards God's plan.

3. Because different results require different actions. I am well aware that we have tried things at our church in the past to evangelize and reach out to the community with very little success. We know something different needs to be done, but no one knows what. That's why a new pastor with a fresh vision and passion to lead us to new, different things is a great thing! Programs are great, but if we don't make connection with people, there is no point to all the work. We've got to do something different. We have to be concerned enough about people to risk being "in their business" and show that we care. We live in a society where we are afraid to get in someone's personal space and we wonder why we don't feel connected to anyone. We have to be willing to take that risk, knowing sometimes, we will be rejected and sometimes, we will make connection. Church is not a social club and I'm not advocating that, but if our concern for people is solely based on if they are interested in becoming one of us, our focus is so messed up. We have to see people as God sees them. Love people because God loves them, and be willing do something different so that God's work can go forward.

So join me in being intentional about welcoming change. Not the Gospel message, that never changes, but the methods and our "normal" has to change for God to move us to where he wants us to be..

Monday, April 17, 2017

Active Listening

God's been leading me to read Habakkuk lately. Only has three chapters, and honestly, I've read it before enough times, but it's not usually a book I would choose to study/read (or that God has ever led me to before).

I'm stuck in Habakkuk 2:1 "I will climb up to my watchtower and stand at my guard post. Then I will wait to see what the Lord says and how he will answer my complaint."

Listening is more than being near someone while they talk. Habakkuk put himself in a position to hear God and he actively watched for an answer. He climbed to his "listening place" and stood guard, waiting for an answer.

We are so busy! We ask God to speak and then go on with our lives expecting him to interrupt us to answer. We don't get in a listening position and wait on him. We make hearing from God just one of the things we hope to happen as we go on with our day. We don't expect him to answer or value his words to us.

I hate when I'm talking to my kids and they keep on doing whatever and don't even acknowledge that I am there. Sometimes they hear me and sometimes they don't, but there is no way I know if they are listening by their posture or responses. A simple "yes, ma'am" or "okay" would prevent me from repeating myself. Of course, the truth is they know that if they don't act like they hear me, I am more lenient as to the punishment for disobedience. (I really do try and be fair and not punish them for being kids and just not paying attention.) But they also know, that I will keep repeating myself until they respond in a way that shows they hear me, and that annoys us both.

How often do we hear God and act like we didn't so we aren't responsible to do what he said? Ouch! The difference is that God knows we hear him even if we don't respond and we are responsible to obey his words.

Time for me to practice some active listening AND obeying when God speaks.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Day Between

Today is Easter Saturday. The day that falls after Good Friday and before Easter.

Yesterday, Christians all over the world celebrated the sacrificial death of Jesus and tomorrow, his resurrection. Praise God!

But what about today? When I think back to Bible times, I wonder what Jesus' disciples were thinking. Feeling. Were they full of faith, waiting for three days to pass and see Jesus resurrected as he had told them would happen? Were they so filled with grief, in denial, that they forgot his words or felt abandoned?

This was the day they had to trust what Jesus said about who he was despite the evidence showing the contrary. This was the day all those watching could give them a big "I told you so" or "Aren't you foolish?" comment. And did that shake them or were they confident, all in, not caring what others said or did?

In life, we all have times where we have to wait for God to fulfill his promises. Where we are tempted to doubt and maybe feel sorry for ourselves just a little bit for all we are having to endure as we wait.

Or maybe we haven't decided who or what we will believe. Maybe we are facing a circumstance that has rattled us to the core and left us feeling hopeless.

The good news is the in-between days don't last forever. God will fulfill his promises. He will not let us down. Whether we are confused or hopeful. Confident or doubting. On top of the mountain or in the valley. God is faithful!

Just like Sunday came and Jesus was resurrected, restoring hope and proving himself true to his word, He will come to you, meeting you where you are and showing you his unchanging love. His compassion. His tender mercies.

This is a first for me, but I really feel like I need to let anyone reading this know, if you need someone to talk to or pray with you, please feel free to reach out to me. I'd love to help you if I can. :)


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Smile!

I'll be the the first to admit that I don't know how to receive a compliment. I usually disagree or make some comment discounting what was said or the person giving the compliment. I refuse to accept there is something good about me when I should just answer with a simple "thank you."

On the flipside,  when I'm having a day where I feel "not good enough" I divulge my uncertainty to friends, hoping they'll give me a compliment and then argue with them about who's perspective about my value is correct. Seeking validation and then refusing to accept it when given.
And I know I'm not the only one who does this.

Both of these situations arise from our inability to see ourselves as God sees us. When we speak or think poorly of ourselves, we are telling God he didn't do a good job. We are insulting his creation and in turn insulting him.   He made us perfect according to his plan and calling for each of us. Exactly as he wanted us to be.

God knows we need affirmation and so he has offered it to us. Was sending his son for you not proof enough that you are valuable? Is his unending love not confirmation enough that you are amazing to him?

And we have to learn that his affirmation of us is all we need. We can't let others opinions of us, good of bad, be the source for our identity. Because the creator gets to decide the value of his creation.

And if we can't see our worth, how will we ever see value in anyone else?

Next time someone gives you a compliment, just say thank you and smile because God thinks you are amazing!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Balance

Today was a good day at church. Each week, I'm really enjoying the presence of God in the worship and preaching. I love how Pastor Sid brings the Word.

Today the thing that kept coming back to me is balance. (This is not at all what he preached about.) We are unashamedly a Pentecostal Church and we allow the Spirit of God to minister to God's people. We are led by the Spirit of God and allow him to speak. But that in itself is not enough to sustain us. We have to have the Word. Neither the Spirit or the Word replace each other but both parts are equally essential to spiritual growth.

This is a balance that we have to have not only in the church but also in our lives. There are so many lopsided Christians.

When we depend too much on God's spirit and felt presence and neglect the Word, we become emotion driven and not grounded in anything. These Christians enjoy great highs of Christianity and devastating lows when they go through a spiritual desert, feeling neglected by God and not knowing the truth of God's word that could sustain them through the valley.

On the flip side, Christians who spend hours in Bible study but deny the power of the Holy Spirit limit God. The truth they know is not allowed to become anything more than knowledge. To know God, we have to experience him in a real and personal way. Denying God the ability to interact with us as he desires denies ourselves of the benefit of that personal relationship.

Worship is more than the songs we sing at church, it is a lifestyle and it too, needs to be balanced. Jesus said that God is looking for worshippers who will worship in spirit and truth. Worshipping in spirit is allowing the Spirit of God to worship God through you according to what God desires. Worshipping in truth is studying God's word as a part of your worship, seeking out the truth. God's word is truth.

God, help me stay balanced and focused as I draw closer to you, so I can be useful for your kingdom according to your plan for me!




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