Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Armor of God

I have been going through quite a few spiritual, mental and emotional battles recently.   I don’t have fear about the what, whom or why of being attacked, because I trust in God’s sovereignty &  life is always full of both ups & downs.  However, I also do not underestimate what these battles could do in me and I know I need to fight for my joy & strength in the Lord.  In other words, I know my relationship & intimacy with my Heavenly Father is worth protecting passionately.

I have realized these battles always start in very insignificant, small ways – just like my walk toward the Lord – one step at a time.   I am not sure how this battle started….maybe I was a victim of hormonal changes, maybe I chose a wrong attitude in an annoying relationship dwelling on myself, or I allowed myself to get consumed in something that really has no eternal significance… It doesn’t really matter how this particular battle started…but ultimately it left me having a bad attitude with the Lord & it left my heart unguarded.
As I turned open my Bible study somewhat begrudgingly one particularly grey day, I saw the question, “which of these pieces of the armor of God (in Ephesians) is most important to you?”…   I remembered the last time I studied this chapter how the Lord had shown me in such an intimate beautiful way that this armor, each piece, like everything in scripture – was wrapped up in Jesus.  It found its purpose & meaning in Jesus.  From the belt of truth (“I am… the truth” John 14:6), the breastplate of righteousness (“our righteousness” I Cor 1:30), the gospel of peace (“He himself is our peace” Eph 2:14), the shield of faith (in Jesus), the helmet of salvation (“He became the source of eternal salvation” Heb 5:9, I Thes 5:9, Eph 1:13), the Sword of the Spirit, the Word (John 1:1, 1:14)… Everything is Jesus.  Jesus is everything.  Jesus is most important.  The end.  

This was such a great reminder to me.    As I focused on Jesus, my Savior & Everything,  I felt the Lord slowly & gently melting away my hardness.  All the fears, doubts, just  plain negative & nasty thoughts & attitudes I had been carrying as I thought about Him just seemed to fall away.  I really understand why people call it a “soft heart”.  They really do feel like hard & soft hearts when we have them!

The armor that was particularly special to me as I focused on Jesus was that precious breastplate of righteousness.   The breastplate protects the heart.  Protects the relationship.  The love.  I really believed I had let go of that breastplate of righteousness, and that is where I needed to begin, yet again.  I had forgotten, to “guard my heart”.  I had allowed my thoughts (my focus) to be consumed with questions, doubts, pity parties, un-thankfulness, anxieties, confusion, self efforts, whatever – rather than allowing my thoughts to be consumed with my Lord & Savior.   Oh yes!....(duh!)…. how did I get to this place again?  How did my mind & thoughts wander so far from Jesus?  

As tears rolled down my face without me even feeling particularly emotional, I really learned a valuable lesson.  When I feel my heart is under attack…when I am feeling my love for God is waning… when I begin to doubt that His love for me has changed…. I must return to that place I know so well - the foot of the cross.  Where righteousness was passed to me simply because I surrender to that gospel truth.  God sees me as righteous, praise the Lord!  It never ceases to soften my heart when I focus on that cross & how He sees me.  I really believe God loves Jesus with a consuming, all powerful love.  I am thoroughly convinced of it. To KNOW & reflect on the truth that He looks at me through His Son whom He cherishes so much is so amazing!  

The most beautiful part of this conversation was how gentle the Lord was.  He is such a perfect Father!  I really felt He reminded me that even though I had let go of that breastplate of righteousness (in my thoughts), the truth is, I was never the one holding it in place anyway.  I am and will always be… fully clothed in His righteousness.  Praise Jesus!  He put that breastplate in place and He will never take it from me.  Now it’s just up to me to believe it!  Even when I let go of that truth in my thoughts, it is still there, praise Jesus!  Therefore, the battle that I have to participate in, is not dependent on my strength to hold on to any armor – but to do all I can to protect my mind, to guard my heart – against any thought that makes me believe I am not fully protected with “every spiritual blessing” because of Jesus!  (Ephesians 1:3)  I have all the armor I need in Jesus & my job to is to stay focused on Him, nourished by Him, close to Him.  The next time my mind wanders, I pray I will be able to more quickly run back to the foot of the cross & be reminded, drawn in, reassured, rejuvenated, restored, refocused!   That is my best advice to give to anybody spiritually battling depression, fear, doubt, anxiety – focus on Jesus, start at the cross!  You are covered!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

God's Love for Cain, Cain's Love for Self

I've never really paid much attention to the story of Cain & Abel in the Bible.  However, last week God used this story in my life in such a beautiful way.   In BSF (Bible Study Fellowship) last week - we studied Cain & Abel in Genesis 4 and this statement was made during a lecture part of our class.

"Eve might have been thinking that Cain was the one that would put everything back in it's right order.  The promised seed God spoke about when he cursed Adam & Eve" (Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you & the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel)

This statement stuck out at me and I couldn't move on past that sentence as I reviewed my notes later.

Cain, like each of us, was solely responsible for his attitude, sin & the choice to allow God's love to help him "master it" (4:7).... or not.   However, I understand for the first time, the part that Eve might have played in his situation.

Cain was the first baby EVER on earth!!  Can you imagine how perfect & beautiful & cute & wonderful he seemed to Eve?  He was a glimmer of hope & beauty in a cursed existence.   On top of that, Eve was expecting & strongly desiring for him to be the offspring to strike the heel of the serpent's.   This is a perfect scenario for Eve to fall into the sin many mother's fall prey to - and that is - worshipping their children.

When a mother's praise lands on their child & not the Lord, trouble is inevitable.

Cain appears to be an unhappy person.  He appears bitter, self-focused, prideful, un-submissive and un-thankful.  Perhaps he had a root of bitterness or deep resentment.  Perhaps he thought as highly as himself as his mother thought of him... and he lived his life in utter self-pity & grievance because things continued to *not* go according to the expectations & plans his mother (and he) wanted.

A child who has adults thinking too highly of them and putting them on pedestals they were not meant to be on, will become self-focused and self-centered.  This is certainly true in Cain's case.  His legacy is of one who refused to turn his eyes off himself and on to the Lord.

Perhaps Eve really had no part in Cain's pride & self-idolatry.... but I know that the Lord used this story to show me how this same root of bitterness had been a constant thread in my childhood.  I can relate to Cain as the child who adults put on a pedestal.... and I can relate to Eve as the mother who is in risk of putting her children on pedestals.

There is no mistaking the pride I have carried in me as long as I can remember.  As I sat and thought on Cain & Eve - many memories rushed quickly through my mind of how this pride has expressed itself over the years.   I can see how the devil used what could have been pure, good love, affection, admiration from adults (and even the Lord) in my life and instead lured me into using that love to prop myself up higher & higher in a self-made, adult & culture-encouraged pedestal.

At the root of all our bitterness & resentment & anger .... is an insecurity.  An area where we have not let God's love in.  An area we have no surrendered to the Lord.  I see now that Cain & I could have much in common in this area too.  When you & others think so highly of yourself..... we begin to believe that our value lies in us & this "potential" everybody talks to us about.  I imagine that Cain was feeling that he had not lived up to the potential he was supposed to.  He was a failure.  God would not even accept his offering - how could he use him to turn things around for his family.

I too fear failure.  I fear insignificance.  I fear not living up to people's potential of me.  I fear disappointing others.   So much of the anger I have had in my life comes from this root of insecurity.  That fear only creeps up when I turn my eyes away from the Lord & what He says about me.

For Cain & I both - the Lord is calling us to give up our expectations we put on ourselves.  This cycle of pride could be immediately stopped if we would turn our eyes on Him!  If we could only surrender trying to find value in our work, our significance, our impact in other's lives!!  The truth is we are of value because we are HIS.  My joy, my value, my satisfaction must be found in Christ alone!  Not how the Potter uses me.  Not the plans that He has for my life.  But because He made me & He loves me.  The value in the clay... is to surrender to the Potter's hands.  How He uses me is HIS work.

I confess my pride.  I am sorrowful for how it's affected my siblings past & present.  My blood siblings & my siblings in Christ.

Because of my pride, it hurts when others are more gifted, when others are used more, when you accept other's offerings.  Because of my pride, I begin to believe God loves me more than _____.  Because of my pride, when I am not a favorite, it hurts.  My big ego wants me to be a "the" and not just an "a".

My pride makes me feel good about myself when I perform or appear as good as *I* want... and then feel terrible about myself when I don't.  Pride & self pity are symptoms of the same root.

I desperately seek significance & my soul is shouting somebody notice me!  But that is not wrong!  This is how amazing God is!! HE made me that way.  HE designed me to have that ache in my deepest being and has offered me the satisfaction for that ache - and that is HIS SON.  Looking at HIS face -  I am radiant (Psalm 34:5).    My search is over & my pride can be forever set aside.  I can be content with obscurity!  I can rest.  HE is the reason I am here and valuable.  

I thank you Lord that you do not play favorites! I thank you that you loved BOTH Abel and Cain.  Cain did not accept your love.  He was so busy trying to be who he wanted to be, striving to live up to the expectations he had for his life....trying to feel better about himself or make up for his frustration with himself - or-  being so full of himself, proud of himself...back & forth back & forth... the constant being SELF.

If only he had shifted his focus up, Cain would have seen you, ready to give him the one thing he desired in his life - LOVE...and with that... value and significance.  

Friday, September 28, 2012

Sharing Life rather than Inviting to Church

One of my favorite things that has shifted in these past years as God has helped us live out our faith is how I interact with friends & new friends.  I have always been an invite-er.  So many of my life experiences have shaped me into being a person that is not afraid to reach out to others (even though I still often feel nervous those first awkward interactions that you have to push through).  I will often reach out to strangers, meet new friends & then connect people to each other.  For many years, this skill was used to help market whatever church I was involved in.  Everywhere I went, my eyes were on the look out for who I could contact & invite "into our community" (to attend the Sunday service).   When I came to the revelation that it was not my job to market God's Church, I was a bit lost as to what I was supposed to be offering people.  We didn't have a regular gathering I could invite them to at that point and when we did, I felt like I needed a 30 minute sermon to explain to people what the vision for community was that I was offering them to be apart of.  

I have gradually learned these past 2.5 years that God is very trustworthy & very capable of managing His Church.  I simply love people & interact with them.  My goal is not to contact & invite any new person I see (to use a personal selling term) but to do whatever the Spirit leads me to do (which is different all the time).  Many times, I will be at a place where the Spirit leads me to reach out a hand and meet a new friend or include them in whatever I am doing. Many times, when I am at a public place with friends, I am friendly to strangers around us - but I don't pursue talking to them because I don't feel lead.  Sometimes during those times, a friend is desiring to talk to me or I can sense a friend needs encouragement.

Now that I have a different perspective on relationships, I very often come across other "inviters" still plugged into church as business, and I'm amazed at how insincere (rude?) they come across.  Sometimes, their laser focus on a new person across the way is so evident that they are completely missing the friendship right in from of them.   Many times, when those inviters find out that a person is un-interested in joining their church, or they already have a church home, they will just move on to somebody else.   Even today, I was talking to an Inviter (who I did want to get to know better) & I got the sense she was 'somewhere else'... I excused myself and I wasn't 5 steps away before she bee-lined over to a new person that had just arrived where we were.  I saw myself in her & had to confess & ask for forgiveness for how I might have treated people a similar way in the past.  This idea of "playing the numbers"... quantity over quality is extremely evident in our American marketplace - including our American church businesses.

I am so thankful for the freedom God has given my family in the way we relate as a Church & to the Church.  I am finding that He is so extremely capable of bringing relationships into our lives at His pace.  When I don't have seats to fill, then I'm not in a rush to fill them.  When I'm not in a rush, I can be better in tune with where & how He is leading me.  The truth is, this skill God has given me is now free to be used how HE desires and not just how I think it should be used.  With that freedom, I am able to focus in on what I have to offer others and not what I need from them (although I never saw it that way when I was "inviting them to church").

We are spread out so beautifully in jobs, neighborhoods, recreational activities, life stages ---- there are enough Christ followers to touch all people --- by relationship/true love at His pace & timing --- which is way more powerful, genuine and longer lasting than mass marketing.  When I become a walking "Jesus Manifesto" (to quote Frank Viola) - I can bring love into wherever I am.   God still uses me to meet new people very often & my eyes are always open to who He would have me reach a hand out to, but it feels different now.   My goal is not growth through attendance.   And whatever "success" is, is not dependent on me - so there is a lot of peace in that!  And just for the record, very rarely (never?) do I have to cut a person off to go meet a new friend.   I don't think that I've ever heard God say to me, "quick".. "don't miss this chance".... "now or never".... I could be wrong - but I just don't think I've ever heard that.  

That being said, in *all* my years as an inviter, I have found many people who are *not* looking to attend a church or who already attend one.  I rarely come across a person who doesn't desire or need encouragement, connection, friendship, a friendly smile, a listening ear, somebody to notice them..... where are all the Jesus Manifestos to offer this to them!?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Faith vs. Fear in Parenting

I wrote this for all my Mommy friends - but the truth is - it's applicable in ALL areas, isn't it!? :) 

Parenting (discipling) is not about "control".  If control is the # 1 priority in parenting, then FEAR is probably the driving force.  FEAR of children's rebellion, FEAR that rebellsion/bad behavior will be passed down to younger children, FEAR that our children will be unloving, disrespectful people. FEAR they will always be unthankful, FEAR what others will think.  FEAR not being able to be used.  FEAR disobedience.  FEAR failing as a mom.  

Turn from your FEAR & confess it to the Lord!

Ask God to fill you with HOPE.  When you have HOPE, you can have faith.  FAITH operates out of the same grace God gives us as His children.  FAITH believes that God can take our consistent (pathetic) best efforts & make it all work for our good (Rom 8:28).  FAITH can see the long term & not dwell on today or yesterday's behavior.  FAITH does not expect perfection from our children (or ourselves).  FAITH driven parents can *shepherd* their children firmly consistently lovingly.  

GOD cares deeply for those who have young.  HE is our shepherd and HE will stay close to us.  HE is our help & He is our strength!  He GENTLY leads us!  

He tends his flock like a shepherd:  He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart;  he gently leads those that have young - Isaiah 40:11-12

Keep on SOWING in faith.  Keep on believing & holding on to HOPE.   SOW through the weeping!   Our harvest will come!  

Those who go out weeping, carrying seed to sow, will return with songs of joy,   carrying sheaves with them. - Psalm 126:6

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Beautitudes with the Church

A few weeks back we met with some of the Church at the ocean and talked about the beautitudes together.  Brandon (hubby) has always given reference to the beautitudes being read as a spiritual "process" if you will -  that we continually go through.  I loved reflecting on that together.  This was my take away:

Even in our mourning we can celebrate!! When we mourn over our spiritual poverty/sin [matthew 5:3-4] we can celebrate in thanks that we have the convicter to make us aware of our sin.  Then we can rejoice because our conviction does not lead to condemnation [Rom 8:1] - it leads to purification! [I John 1:9] ♥ and we can stay hope-filled because the same One who convicts is the same who will comfort [2 Cor 1:4]... The Cross is the reason for all the celebration! Because of these reasons - our mourning & our sin now lead us CLOSER to God... we can run TOWARD Him in our sin rather than hiding in shame. 

Thank you Jesus! I praise you!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

The Inter-generational Rift

In the past 5 years, I have studied, explored & experienced (as much as a 28 year old stay-at-home mom can) different ways to relate to the Church – perhaps it would be better explained - different ways to relate as a church with my brothers & sisters.  I still don’t know much, but I have learned some things. As more and more people in my generation are doing, I have moved toward a more ‘free’ non-traditional expression of Church rather than the customary Sunday morning scene.  Through this journey the past 5 years, I have continued to praise & thank God for the courage & freedom He has given me to follow Him, despite expectations put on me by others or by the church institution.  For a people pleaser (in my flesh) this has been no small feat. 

In this last year in particular, I have become aware of a very precious gift and that is an open heart toward my brothers & sisters.  I know this is a gift from Him – because I’m a rebel in my flesh and love to throw the baby (people) out with the bath water (their way of doing things that I don’t feel called to).   Instead of allowing me to journey too far one way, God has brought me back into balance by gifting me with an open heart to give people a chance.  He has helped me not depersonalize people and simply throw them into a category & stereotype that I can then critique or argue (or rail) against…. but instead has continually asked me to step toward people that are different from me.   Because of my willingness to look at the heart of my brothers & sisters and not their behavior or traditions, I have met some of the most beautiful, genuine, loving women (and men!).  

Fall 2010, I was asked to join a Bible Study.   I confess I was very judgemental in my opinion that ladies in this study would be judgemental. J I very much resisted being apart of this (very traditional and structured) group and dragged my feet wanting to NOT like it – but the richness of the teaching & love for Jesus & His Word won me over.  When this group asked me to come into leadership after that first year, I again did everything I could to resist it but God continued to impress on my heart – don’t judge, keep your heart open.  What do you know, as soon as I walked into that room for our first meeting (as the youngest in the group by 20 years at least), I saw Jesus was there.  Journeying with these women the past 2 years has humbled me.  They have continued to show me that who they are - is not how they do Church.   How much they love structure & routine is not WHO they are. J  And they have shown me that just because they are different than me, doesn’t mean they don’t have anything to teach me.  Quite opposite, really.  I am SO thankful that I was open enough to go into what I feared would be a lion’s den.

I write all this down to call out an issue in our Church.   The perfect storm is happening right now to cause an intergenerational rift in the American Church.  Families do not stay geographically together.  We are mobile & we are taking full advantage of it.  So many in my generation will move hundreds of miles away from ‘home’ and not ever return.  They enter new cities and enter the world with all it’s enticing temptations & ideologies, many without strong support systems close to them.  Praise God that some will stay connected to a church – but it’s more rare than it is common for our college students.  Almost of those in my generation who somehow endured & persevered through atheist professors & worldly pleasures and returned back to a church (many times after they have gotten married & started a family) --- choose a church full of people - just like them.   They meet once a week with their church, enjoy the rock concert worship performance together, hear some very relevant non threatening sermon from a 30 or 40-something year old - and that’s that.   Their “leadership” teams are chosen based more on business/marketing/finance/public speaking/organization skills than anything I am finding in the Bible that constitutes an ‘elder’.   I am concerned.

We don’t realize how much we were made for community with each other.  We have let our ways of ‘doing’ church be more important than our love for each other.  I am so thankful when I hear of Generation Y honoring BabyBoomers enough to realize they actually deserve our respect and our ears and have a lot to teach.  I am soo encouraged when I see Baby Boomers trying their best to ‘be relevant’ and enter the new ‘non- denominational’ denomination of churches (although most don’t return after a few visits because their ears won’t stop stinging after the extremely loud rock concert feel of worship).  But I am discouraged that there does not appear to be any true, genuine beyond surface interaction between the generations.  I am discouraged that when we look at each other – we have begun to believe the lie that we are just too different to find common ground - and that “they” just do not understand us. 

If I could “holla” at my generation, I’d beg them (us) to surrender!  Surrender our egos that make us think anything we are doing is actually ‘new’ and that we have an edge on Truth.  Surrender our pride that tells us nobody understands us and we have to link arms with only each other and do it our way, not caring what others think.  Repent of our sin of not putting others above ourselves.  Repent of our sins of judgement on others that are ‘too religious’ or ‘too traditional’.  We must acknowledge that we don’t know it all --- and that there is a LOT to learn from our brothers & sisters that have been journeying with the Lord for longer than we have been alive!   Yes, even those who still have their “Sunday Best”!

In the same way, you who are younger, submit yourselves to your elders.  All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble…I Peter 5:5

If I could encourage the baby boomers & silent generation, I would tell them - don’t be silent!   Though so many of you were taught that faith is private & not something to be talked about – please talk about Jesus to us!   Please tell us what you have learned.  Don’t be ashamed of us and communicate that in the way you treat us.  More importantly, be willing to walk alongside & encourage us.  Build relationships with us so when we do trust you enough to ask your opinion you will be able to give us biblically sound Truth we are craving.  Ask God to help you look past what we DO and see our hearts.  Push through the awkwardness of asking a younger brother & sister to have coffee & get to know each other.   Don’t believe the lie that you don’t have anything to offer and that it takes a pastor to walk alongside/serve every member of a church.  Forgive and show grace to your younger brothers & sisters that have had to endure a culture and worldly lies and pressures unlike you have experienced (and many times they have had to persevere with only Christ by their side in public squares full of nonbelievers).   Please don’t make us change what we DO before you will accept us.  Don’t make us behave (as you want us to) before you will love us.   Acknowledge that many of us are very close to the Lord and that we have been captivated by His love – and you could use some of our excitement & simplicity that comes with a young faith.  

By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.  John 13:35.

The older generations need the excitement, freedom & relationship-focus that our  younger generation have in their walk with the Lord.   The younger generation is desperate for biblical knowledge, for examples of faith through storms, and discipline that many in the older generation possess!  So MUCH of life & Truth can only be learned through experience – we need people walking alongside us to encourage us in our marriage, in our faith in our parenting….not to try to pass ALL knowledge to us – but to plant seeds, to be there for us when we are ready to ask for help, to serve & walk alongside – disciple!

I would LIKE to call ALL generations to surrender our worship of our church practices & traditions – that get in the way of us honoring & respecting & submitting to our brothers and sisters….to get rid of it ALL….but I won’t do that.  I will simply challenge each of us if we aren’t willing to surrender our way of doing church – that we would be intentional with the other 166 hours in our week and get around brothers & sisters that do things different from us!

The reality is – there is a balance in all God created, isn’t there?   Balance should definitely be a curse word.  As soon as we feel we got something “right” - God shows us once again we have drifted too far and it’s time to balance.  We won’t ever get it fully right.  I think the same is true of the Church.  In a world full of extreme thinkers & extreme doers, the ‘best’ path is usually right there in the middle of it all.   We need each other.   I do believe God designed us with different passions, ways of relating as a Church, different revelations – for a purpose – and that purpose is not to argue & move away from anybody that differs from us.   If God wanted us to be totally unified in knowledge/brain/action/passions – He would have made things a lot more black & white, right?  And the truth is – there’s a heck of a lot of grey.  He desires for us to be unified in Spirit. (Eph 4:3) To be submissive to & considerate of each other.  Not just to the ones we agree with and really understand. 

One day we will see fully – for now we see in part – and if we refuse to walk alongside people who are different from us – this rift between our generations will be a canyon… and I believe it will be detrimental to the health of the American Church.  Our disunity in interpretations, traditions and Church practices are not only okay with God ---- they are planned & designed by God.   Those differences are exactly what we need to learn to love others, to stop majoring in the minors and instead find our unity & focus in Him. 

I pray that we will not have un-christlike embarrassment of each other, but we will open our hearts to each other.  There is a beautiful opportunity here to bring LOVE, respect & honor back into our worlds.   
There is nothing wrong in The Church that a massive surrendering to Christ will not fix.  I am standing on the hope that my job is to surrender (submit) to Him & to others – and He will present Her, [The Church] to Himself as radiant, without stain & wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy & blameless. Eph 5:27

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Head & Heart

In North Carolina this week we had to vote on an amendment that would add to our state constitution that the only domestic union we would recognize would be a marriage between one man & one woman. Wow - I had no idea this was going to be such a huge deal (on my facebook newsfeed!).   This 'issue' really turned into something much bigger than a vote for legal matters in our state.   It opened up a lot of people to really confront what it is they believe and what is important to them.   I learned many lessons this week.

First,  a logistical lesson that I learned about 4 years ago (during election 2008)... which I apparently forgot....

Self: do not process out politics/theology on open forums - including facebook!  Even though you are sending the message/comments to your 'friends'... you forget that anybody/everybody can see them and those people don't know you or your heart.  Process out political/theological issues with your Church & brothers and sisters in your community!  I KNOW it's frustrating to only see one side and the 'other side' always seems so vocal and you'd like to engage in the conversations simply just so it's NOT one sided..... you don't even want to debate or argue - or convince others --- but you just want BOTH sides heard for the onlookers if nothing else!!  Even if it's a good motive -- resist that temptation!  Private message your believing friend online if you can not resist the urge to comment.

Second, don't forget that you definitely speak different and send a different message to a believer and a non believer about the Bible, sin, God, etc..... don't forget who you are talking to!   Nonbelievers resist the Word & Truth....even if it's coming from a 'friend'... don't forget there is nothing you can say to them to open their heart. They especially are not open to your words when they are already on the defense because they have a viewpoint *they* are trying to convince others of.  This is for sure one of those times when love stays silent.

In my quest for knowledge (sound doctrine even?)..... I must always remember that there is a balance in everything.  (Yes God, I hear you..... AGAIN --- balance balance balance.)  YES knowledge is important.  God gave us brains and we must use them.  We must not be scared to open our minds to new thoughts or viewpoints.... but let's always make sure as much as we are reading other's thoughts and viewpoints.... we are reading the Bible for ourselves that much more - and allowing Him to speak to our spirit directly.   So what that we don't know the greek/hebrew and are probably missing so much..... even though we don't have the 72 inch plasma high definition --- we still have the little tv with rabbit years --- we might not be getting everything and seeing it for exactly what it is --- but we ARE getting the story line & bigger picture of what is going on!

Using our brains to understand more about God, more about His attributes & how He views us and the world is so important.   So we must dig in, study, look at different interpretations, seek knowledge.... but let's just be honest here, Randi Jo, you are not an intellectual Bible scholar... that isn't how God lead you to the cross and that isn't the role He has you in, praise the Lord!! :)

As a Wife, Mommy & sister in Christ.... I don't have to be a theologian to have Christ dwell in me, do a great work in me and through me.  Help me God not resent the place you have me.... and not to take it too lightly either.... In this beautiful season of life I am in, I have been stretched, molded and have grown more than any of my years of studying & seeking.  When it comes down to it, I'm pretty sure that there are many things that can not be learned until they are lived out....  and LOVE is one of those.   So many people can feel/seem so spiritual as they sit at home and read and write about all these things they are learning..... but it's worthless and they haven't grown at all until it's lived out in community!

I find it so encouraging that Jesus himself had things to learn.  I found this profound scripture in Hebrews 5 that said, "Jesus learned obedience from what He suffered".   Pretty awesome if you ask me.  It doesn't mean He believed *wrong* things.... He was perfect & had perfect thinking.... but it means that there are some things that we can only learn through experience/suffering/obedience.   That means that perfect doesn't mean you have NOTHING to learn -- how cool is that!?  Jesus was perfect and Jesus Himself had things to learn... so this proves to me there are some things that can only be learned through experience!!! Love that.  I must trust that God IS my shepherd and since I don't have the time (nor resources or brains!!!) to be a theologian right now --- I can trust that He is teaching me through my experiences, through life and my simple time with Him as I surrender to Him all throughout the day!  I KNOW He is doing a great work in me, I see it, others see it --- I praise you God that you care more about changing my heart than you do filling my brain!! :)

I can so easily get bogged down & consumed in my search for truth.  I can search and search and pray for God to give me enough knowledge in my brain to answer some question, "right".... but then at the end of it all.... there are many times where I just have to make a choice with that I believe - because it's not black & white.   Many times I come to the end of all the information I can find.... and He has not revealed anything specific to me....and I am back to a realization He had taught me years ago - and that is simply that HE is the Truth. John 14:6.   He doesn't ask me to figure out the answer to every moral & theological question presented to me - or even those that may be presented someday so that I can follow what He wants....  He asks me to follow HIM.  Oh how quickly I forget, God.  In my original Bible study I did with you when my journey really started, "what pleases you God?" ---- remember, the answer was not in my brain, my knowledge or even my morality.... the answer every time was Christ... and my surrender to/dependence on/devotion to Him!!! :)

What happened this week in all my crunching for answers and wanting so badly for things to be black & white.... was that I came to the profound thought that WOW --- if God wanted all of us to be really clear on everything and be totally unified in knowledge/brain..... then He wouldn't have given us the Bible in the form it is in.   One day we will "see fully" but right now we only see in part.... and that is God's doing.   Not only is all this disunity in interpretation.....(and all these grey areas) accepted by Him.... it was PLANNED by Him... This is exactly what we need to learn to LOVE others.  This is exactly what we need to learn to find unity in HIM.  To be unified in Spirit when not unified in brain/intellect.  

If there were NO disagreements... there would be so need to work on unity.  When there are disagreements.... it helps us focus on what we can all agree on - Christ, Christ crucified, Christ risen!! :)

And finally, my last take away from all of this comes from Beth Moore, So Long Insecurity that I've been reading through with my Friday night girlfriends.  Apparently, I have an issue with wanting to be like God.  I want to know everything He knows, I want to know all the answers that a human can have... even if the answer is, "we don't know"... apparently I'm a know it all and I didn't even know it!!

I have found that knowledge is an idol to me. It's a 'false positive'.... it's one of those things that I look for when I am feeling insecure.... and it's one of those things that can send me quickly on the road to insecurity when I feel I'm lacking it.   When I'm anxious, when there's a grey area, when I feel I might be 'wrong' on an issue I'm standing for ---  that can send me into a tunnel toward insecurity like very few things can.   This fear to be 'wrong' is not from God.   and I don't know why I fear being wrong.  Do I really think that a loving Father would punish me because I don't understand something fully?  He absolutely would not!  As a good Father, Counselor & Shepherd, He will simply help me learn.   God does not expect me to be perfect.  Which means He does not expect me to know everything!! Hello!  Which means He has grace for the things I *don't* understand since He is the one that reveals to me what I DO understand.

Please let this be a lesson that truly sinks into my soul this time, Lord.   That my security is found in you alone, Christ.  You alone are my security.  My brain is not my security.  My doctrinal accuracy is not my security.  I am not saved because of my knowledge.  I am saved because of my faith in you.  I must remember that knowledge is great -- to support my heart --because the heart is central.  And the heart is relationship.  You can so easily change my knowledge...I've had major paradigm shifts in my knowledge after one reading...but I have found that changing my heart is what takes time.  The heart is what is important.  

Help me remember God that you created a beautiful balance in everything - including our search for Truth.  Help me seek out knowledge in a healthy way.  Help me process information better and more efficiently.  Help me study the Bible better.  But also help me remember that you didn't ask me to follow The Bible.  You asked me to follow YOU.  Help me focus on that relationship/your Spirit in me.... and trust that you will give me the knowledge/wisdom as I can handle it and as I need it.   Help me not push through at my own pace but let me be patient with your pace.   Remind me that I am learning all of the time as I walk with you.  As I learn to surrender and yield to your Spirit more and more - the more I will learn and the biblical knowledge will come.  I can't resent the pace you have set for my life right now.  For now I must be okay with saying that I believe in the Bible and that every word is True whether I understand it or not.....I believe that I don't understand it and I have wrong thoughts about it.....and that's okay........and most of all, I believe in you!