Saturday, June 30, 2007

Lessons from James--Week 3, Chapter 3

Lessons from James--Week 2, Chapter 2
Lessons from James--Week 1, Chapter 1

Well guys, at this point, it's the end of week 3, only 2 more weeks till camp! I'm so excited!!! After this week, I'm exhausted and need a vacation. Not sure how restful a sleepless week of camp with 100 junior high aged kids will be. But I know it will be spiritually uplifting and I'm just counting on Him to give me His rest and peace that I need. Without further adieu, let's delve into chapter three of James...

"Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check. When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. Likewise the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and creatures of the sea are being tamed and have been tamed by man, but no man can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God's likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water."--James 3:1-12
-----Wow. James elaborates some more on what it means to DO God's will, in a way that is tangibly evident in our lives, and he has alot to say here about a seemingly small thing. He's talking about our tongue...and he uses several metaphors to describe to us the vast importance of learning to control it. First he uses metaphors to describe to us its power and importance in our lives--a bit in a horse's mouth, or a rudder on a ship. Seemingly small parts that can have a big impact. As the old saying goes, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me." Well, that saying is a lie. Words are powerful enough to hurt others, not to mention ourselves. He says it has the ability to set the whole course of a our lives on fire--I dunno about you, but that's a scary thought for me. James says it's easier to tame animals, who by nature may be aggressive, than it is to tame the tongue. Think about that for a minute? Imagine how much effort and training someone has to put into a job like that. Not that I would know, I'm not an animal trainer, and I don't play one on TV. But I can imagine that it wouldn't be easy--yet it can be done. Taming the tongue, however? James says no man can do this. He says the man who can accomplish this is perfect. Perfect? Just by being able to control what you say? That's how much self-control James says this takes. And then he ends with the thought that one cannot both praise God and curse his brother. If there is salt water flowing from your spring, there cannot be pure fresh water coming from it as well. The verse that keeps coming to mind is the words of Jesus in Matt 12:34, "Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks."

"Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such 'wisdom' does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness."--James 3:13-18
-----If I had to pick a theme of the book of James (or at least of the part that I've read and analyzed up to this point) I believe I would pick this passage of scripture. Would you agree? The reason I say this is because two main things continue to jump out at me as I read through. I keep seeing the theme of "Godly/Spiritual/Eternal vs. Worldly/Physical/Temporary" and I keep seeing the theme of "Being a doer"--that is, we need to be focused on the eternal things, rather than things of this world, and this should be evident in the way we live our lives and the things we do. This passage says all of that perfectly. There is a spiritual, Godly wisdom that is better than the wisdom of this world; and when we learn to live out our lives by it, we will be blessed with God's peace and righteousness.

Just a few more of my thoughts as I read afresh through James; just a girl tryin to pick up some new insight. If you've got any insight to offer, I'd greatly appreciate it! Much love!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Perfect Timing

Everything about God is perfect, so why shouldn't His timing be??? Why does it surprise us sometimes that His timing is perfect? I guess it just surprises me more when I see it in the little things. I'm in the middle of reading Darryl Tippens' Pilgrim Heart, and earlier this week, I completed two of his chapters that pertain to Sabbath rest, and the blessings that come from taking some time to rest, rather than getting caught up in the things of this life to the neglect of more important matters.

Now...how did God know that was the particular message I would need to hear this week??? But He did. His timing almost amuses me. For this week has been one of the most stressful, mostly at work. We had two employees quit--one was a supervisor, who had given notice a few weeks ago; the other was a brand new employee, who just didn't show up this week. With a shortage of employees, I've had to travel to our branch across town to deal with some cash-handling procedures, and this week, a trip to the branch that normally takes 1 or 1 1/2 hours took 3, because I had to stay over there and assist in something else. Then there were the computer problems on Wednesday. I believe a server was down...which meant the main program that we use to serve members was down...from 11 a.m till about 4:15 p.m. With that, our main check printer was off-line at times, causing some accounting issues, which I discovered today. I began to look for the issues, but have yet to find them...all I've discovered so far is that they won't be easy to find. Oh, and of course, tomorrow is the last business day of the month. And of the quarter.

So on Saturday morning, while some of my friends from our Singles group at PV will be floating the Buffalo, I will be at work, resolving the present issues and, no doubt, helping to avoid future ones. Perfect timing.

Guys, if y'all are out there, would you take the time to remember me in your prayers tonight and tomorrow and Saturday? Pray that I can stay focused on what is important, so that I do not become too stressed out. But more importantly, pray that I can find my peace in my rest in Him, despite the craziness of the world around me. Much love to you all!

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I Had A Dream...

Which is quite somthing, in and of itself. Because I very rarely, if ever, remember my dreams. That disturbs me sometimes, because you hear of people seeing important things pertaining to their lives, possibly receiving 'messages' if you will, in their dreams. I wonder what possibly important and life-altering messages I'm missing out on...

But, nevertheless, I had a dream last night; one of which I can only remember a few sketchy details. But I found it amusing. And I wanted to share it, especially w/the person it's about...and this is the least-embarassing way I can think of to share it...because maybe he'll never read this...or maybe he will...and maybe he'll find it amusing as well!

I'm not sure what triggered the dream about this person. I guess it's because I'm studying a book right now, along with a study guide that he co-authored (or at least added "editing glimmer" to--the study guide, not the book, that is.) Also, last night, I spent some time right before I went to bed reading some other of his writings and the comments along with them. And I must add that he is a gifted writer.

So...in my dream...sitting in church...Sunday morning, I believe...before church...people still coming in and out, walking up and down the aisle...I'm in the same general vicinity that I usually sit...in my hands are a book that he wrote...how cool is that!...He finally wrote a book!...I think I'd taken the copy w/me to church to ask him to sign it for me...he's in his usual general vicinity...several rows ahead of me, in the section to my left...but for whatever reason, I'm just sitting there, looking at this book...don't remember what it's about...something religious, obviously...only part of the title I recall is something about "Going to God"...maybe??? And as I'm looking at this book, all I recall thinking is, "Oh, what a STUPID title!"

Yep, you read that right. This was one of those early morning dreams, which is probably the only reason that I can recall any of it. More than the vague visuals of the dream described above, I recall my thought process as I was waking up from this dream...

"Oh, what a stupid title!...This can't be right...this can't be his...surely, he could do better than that!...This can't be real...Wait, this isn't real...it's just a dream..."

Then, in my first few moments of full-fledged awakeness, "Oh, how cool! He wrote a book! I wish that were real! Except for the stupid title part!"

Now if only I could remember what the title was, so you'll know not to use it...in the future...when you really do write a book...right??? Or am I just dreaming??? : )

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Yes...

Or, at least, I think Hollywood sometimes 'gets' Him better than I do...

This post is in response to one posted by our own intelligent, intellectual, and always insightful brother Keith Brenton over at Blog In My Own Eye. Several months ago, he asked "Does Hollywood 'Get' God (Better Than Evangelical Christianity Does)?" Go ahead, take a look at it; I promise, it's well worth it.

This evening, I went and saw Evan Almighty, the sequel to 2003's Bruce Almighty. This time, Morgan Freeman reappears as God, asking Evan to build an ark. Evan is to basically become a modern-day Noah. I'll try to tell you what I learned from this movie without giving it away; what it is that Hollywood seems to have a grasp on that I struggle with.

I seem to have two very different ideas of God. I think of God, the Father, as Keith described in the latter part of that post, "the kind of God people fall down in front of and beg for rocks to fall on them; the kind of God before whom people feel so unworthy to speak that they'd only feel cleansed by having their tongues cauterized by a burning coal."

Just read with me from Isaiah 6:1-5: "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord seated on a throne, high and exalted, and the train of his robe filled the temple. Above him were seraphs, each with six wings: With two wings they covered their faces, with two they covered their feet, and with two they were flying. And they were calling to one another: 'Holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.' At the sound of their voices the doorposts and thresholds shook and the temple was filled with smoke. 'Woe to me!' I cried. 'I am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty.'"

That's kinda the idea I have when I think of Father God; a God who is holy and almighty; a God who is a "consuming fire" and who is to be approached with "reverence and awe." And He is all those things. I suppose I just focus more on those than anything else. I think less of "Father" and more of "God."

However, in thinking of Jesus, I get a very different picture. When I see Jesus, I see Someone who "didn't consider equality with God something to be grasped." He gave up heaven to live here on the earth as a man; He lived a life of sacrifice and service to others; His life on this earth ended with His ultimate sacrifice for us. I see Jesus as someone who had compassion for everyone, took the time to meet their needs (both physical and spiritual), and took the time to teach them, by example what it means to be a servant.

For we read in John 13:3-5: "Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under His power, and that He had come from God and was returning to God; so He got up from the meal, took off His outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around His waist. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash His disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around Him."

Yet, it's sometimes difficult to reconcile these two different ideas. Although Jesus and the Father are separate parts of the Trinity, they are also One. For Jesus is our Immanuel, our "God with us." He even told His apostles, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing His work."--John 14:9-10. The best combination of these two that I can come up with is the Holy Spirit. He is indeed 'Holy'; yet He is Christ's Spirit at work in us and in this world today.

The portrayal of God in these two movies is, in my opinion, an excellent combination of both of these ideas of God. We see a holy and almighty God who is willing to draw near to someone on an individual basis to teach them and bless them. In Evan Almighty, we see His holiness, perfectness, and infinite wisdom in contrast with our human nature, as Evan, standing before God (with bird poop on his suit, nonetheless) , tries to explain to God that he has his own worldly plans that he wants to focus on, rather than build an ark. Almighty God just laughs, I believe, at the ridiculousness of the moment.

Later in the film, God pays a brief visit to Evan's wife, without completely disclosing His identity. He shows up at dinner as a waiter, offers her a compassionate ear to listen to her (while miraculously refilling her dinner tray, nonetheless) and then shares with her some wisdom in dealing with her family situation. Almighty God is willing to meet a physical need and minister to this woman. And then He leaves, telling her that He has "alot more people to serve."

Through Morgan Freeman, Hollywood managed to show us an Almighty God who is here to serve. What a blessed thought!

This movie is a must-see.

Much love!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Lessons from James--Week 2, Chapter 2

Lessons from James--Week 1, Chapter 1

Last week, in chapter 1 of James, we noticed a basic theme where James is encouraging people to be mindful to eternal things, rather than temporary things. He urges them to focus on the word of God, and do what it says in order to keep from being enticed by the world. Let's see where James takes this idea in chapter 2...

"My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, 'Here's a good seat for you,' but say to the poor man, 'You stand there,' or 'Sit on the floor by my feet,' have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of Him to whom you belong? If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, 'Love your neighbor as yourself,' you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. For he who said,'Do not commit adultery,' also said,'Do not murder.' If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker. Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement!"--James 2:1-13

-----The first thing that I notice in this passage is that James seems as though he's just continuing with the main thought of chapter one, the idea of focusing on the eternal rather than the temporary. But, this time, he's being more specific about it, which is one of the things that makes his book such an excellent one to study. He's just very practical. He tells the people that they should not be focused on the worldly, but then he gives them one example of how to actually go about this, by treating everyone equally. He reminds them that not only does failing to do so not make sense (the rich are, after all, exploiting them disrespecting the One to whom they belong!), it is a sin! You've seen those "billboards from God" in black, with white lettering? One of my favorites was the one that said: "That 'Love thy neighbor' thing...I meant that"--God. This almost seems to be James' point, as he points out that treating people negatively is just as much against God's law as adultery or even murder. For when we treat people that way, we are passing judgement on them based on the temporary, and doing so unmercifully. James, instead tells the people to live as though they will be judged by a law that gives freedom...so there is no room for judgement when we bring mercy into play.

"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that--and shudder. You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,' and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead."--James 2:14-26

-----This passage of scripture is an excellent one, as James continues to stress the importance of what we DO. Remember in chapter one, where he told us not to just be listeners but to be "doers" of the word? And just a moment ago, when he gave us an example of how to treat others? He took God's law and made a real-life application, something that his readers would actually have to DO when they were dealing with each other. Now, here we are, once again, with James flat-out saying that if we aren't "doers" our faith is dead. Dead. Just like when evil desires give birth to sin, which gives birth to death. So you mean we don't have to do anything bad, we can just 'do nothing' and be dead spiritually? That's what James is saying...

When we were studying this book last fall in our Singles group, when we got to this passage, we compared it with some of the writings of Paul, in Romans, in particular. Romans 4:2-3ays, "If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about--but not before God. What does the Scripture say? 'Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.'" Interesting that Abraham is the example given in both of those seemingly contradictory passages of scripture. One pointing to justification by faith, and the other to justification "not by faith alone." But, one must note that James doesn't discount faith...he just points out that it must lead to action, he takes it one step further. One guy in our class pointed out that what James means when he talks about "works" might be similar to what Paul means when he describes "fruits of the Spirit" or talks about living in the Spirit. What do you think of this idea? One thing is certain--whether you are a subscriber to Paul or James (but hopefully, you'll listen to both!)--there must be some tangible evidence of your faith in your daily life!

Stay tuned for more lessons from James! Much love!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The Battle Belongs to the Lord...

If you've read my blog before, you might be aware that I previously purchased a few new books in an effort to accumulate some good summertime, poolside reading material. A short week later, I received the books that I had ordered and have since delved into the first one, a book entitled Pilgrim Heart by Darryl Tippens.

Unfortunately, the rain received over the past couple of days has put a damper on my poolside reading plans. But that hasn't stopped me from curling up under the covers in bed for some quality reading time! So it was this evening, as I have just finished a chapter of that book which looked at the idea of emptying oneself and letting go. He spoke of how we need to be willing to let go of things that this world values and prizes, such as wealth, pride, self-reliance, etc., in order to be filled with God's Spirit.

Yet this just seems to me to go against our human nature. It can be such a struggle to deny oneslf and take up one's cross daily and follow Him. It's exactly that for me, in many ways. Not necessarily anything that can be easily pinpointed. I feel this struggle in many "little" ways, in all the areas of my rather mudane life; there's sometimes just a struggle to have the right attitude. And sometimes I admit I feel like Paul in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do."

But I'm thankful that we serve a forgiving God, whose mercies are new every morning. But more than that, He doesn't just forgive us when we mess up, He helps us to keep from messing up! Indeed, in emptying oneself and being filled His with Spirit, we allow His Spirit to work in us; HE is the one transforming us. We just have to "be still." Tippens reminds us this command, found in Ps. 46:10. In the accompanying study guide to his book, by Angela and Keith Brenton, we are guided to Ps. 46:10; then, we are also guided to a verse in Exodus, which spoke to me this evening in a powerful way, because it takes the command of Ps. 46:10 one step further.

I appreciated this verse even more when I remembered the details of the context of this verse, found in Exodus 14. If anyone was ever on a pilgrimage, it was the Israelites, as they left a land of slavery, led by Jehovah Himself, en route to a Promised Land. Here, even at the very beginning of their pilgrimage, they run into an obstacle. They have a sea ahead of them and Pharaoh's army of Egyptians behind them. They even become so discouraged that they look back on their old way of life, "We were better off back there..." In verses 13- 14, "Moses answered the people, 'Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still.'" What a blessed thought! I don't have to struggle, become weary, mess up, ask for forgiveness, try again, struggle, become weary, mess up...God will do the work for me!!! He will fight for me, if only I let Him!

"Lord, please help me learn to be still, to let go and let You. You promised so many years ago to fight for your people, now please fight for me when I can't. I get tired in the daily struggle of life. Help me to experience even more what an awesome God you really are, as I learn what it means to rely on You rather than self."

What about you? Any Egyptians you're running from? Just remember not to ever look back from whence you came and dare to think that you were better off before. How could you ever be better off enslaved to the things of this world than you are with a God that promises to fight for you, as long as you are still and quiet long enough to recognize Him for the awesome God that He is? He is, after all, the Savior that promises rest for the weary. Just trust in Him to fight for you as He leads you on your pilgrimage to your Promised Land.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Eight Ways to Be a Bad Christian...The Grand Finale!!!

For several Wednesdays, we've been studying "Ways to Be a Bad Christian," as we looked at the words of Christ in Matthew 23. My previous posts on this subject can be found here, here, and here. Feel free to catch up, or go back and refresh your memory! Here's the next one in that list...


7. Focus on outward appearance at the expense of inward integrity.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men's bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear to people as righteous but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness."--Matt. 23:25-28

Rather, Jesus says, "For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him."--Matt. 12:34-35

Numerous times, Jesus says it is what is on the inside, not the outside, that makes a man clean or unclean. Yet, for some reason, this escapes the Pharisees. To them, "image is everything." And Jesus simply says that looks are deceiving. The Pharisees were, in reality, no different than anybody else. But they wanted everybody else to think that they were more righteous and more religious. Jesus tells them that they should be worried about impressing God, not people.

Do people view us that way sometimes? Do we ever tend to give off the impression that we are better than those around us? Maybe not necessarily intentionally...but still...does it happen? Our minister shared w/us about speaking with a woman who is new to our church, only been coming around for a couple of months. He said he was afraid he heard a little bit of that in her voice, although she didn't say it. She seemed to think that we "had it all together," more so than she did. Do we act in such a way that we want people to think that we do have it all together, when in reality, we are struggling just like everyone else??? I think one way to remedy this problem is to just be more willing to share our struggles with each other. I saw a perfect example of this Sunday night at our church, when, after the sermon, a man got up and shared his testimony with us. He spoke of how God had helped him overcome an alcohol addiction. Our minister's comment on Wednesday night was "I can almost guarantee you that he was not the only one in that room who had struggled with an addiction to alcohol. But very few people would be willing to share something like that." However, when we are willing to share, it benefits everyone. I admit that I, as a listener, was almost moved to tears listening to him Sunday night (and I'm not one to cry often) just getting to listen to Him talk about the Lord touching his life. Very uplifting. Those who know they can share their struggles without fear of judgement will know that they can then find strength in their family of believers. And then we don't appear to outsiders that we "have it all together. " Everyone benefits. We must keep in mind the words of Ps. 34:18 and be willing to have a broken heart and a crushed spirit at times.

And finally......









The last in our series of "Eight Ways to Be a Bad Christian......









Drumroll, please......









8. Insist on being easy on yourself and hard on others.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous. And you say, 'If we had lived in the days of our forefathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.' So you testify against yourselves that you are the descendants of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of the sin of your forefathers!"--Matt. 23:29-31

Rather, Jesus says, "For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."--Matt. 7:2

Do we often times criticize others who are guilty of the same things that we are guilty of ??? One guy in our class brought up an interesting point; he said that in studying human psychology, it is observed that we tend to judge others by their actions while judging ourselves by our circumstances. It would be beneficial if we could all admit, like Paul, that "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." (Rom. 7:15)

Chuck told another story, this one about his son. He said earlier that afternoon he got a call from his son, a newly licensed driver, who had been pulled over for speeding and changing lanes often. He said, "I was ready to go home and tell him he ought not be driving like a fool! But then I thought that on they way there, maybe I ought not drive like a fool. Where did he learn that behavior?"

In this particular way, and really, in the whole "Eight Ways" I think the key is consistency. Are we willing to be honest with ourselves and make necessary changes to be pleasing to God? And are we helping others to be pleasing to God as well? Do we love the Lord and love our neighbors as ourselves?

I think those might be a few ways to be good Christians...

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Lessons from James--Week 1, Chapter 1

I'm not yet sure what the theme of the previously mentioned Barton Bible Camp will be this year, but I know that our director has said he wants to study from the book of James. Since there are five weeks till camp, and five chapters of the book of James, why don't we take another look at this book, in an effort to prepare for camp, one chapter per week! How convenient! Here we go...I'll just share with you some things that stand out to me as I read through, perhaps I'll inquire of you in your wealth of knowledge, and I'll also share with you some notes that I pulled out from last fall, when our Singles class was studying the book of James on Wednesday nights.


***Side comment***

If you are not someone who typically takes notes during church or Bible studies, I highly recommend it. I started when I was in college, and it amazes me how much more I retain just by writing something down! Plus I can go back months, or even years later, and have valuable information readily available! Not only that, reading what I've written helps to jog my memory back to when I wrote, so I remember more of the actual sermon or lesson as well! These days you will rarely find me in church or class w/out a little notepad and a pen to go along with my Bible. Just one girl's opinion.



Now, on to James...

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does."--James 1:2-8

----How often do you pray to God for wisdom? I confess that I don't often. I sit here right now, with my most current prayer list written down on a note pad, laying on my desk in front of me. As I glance over it, I notice that I tend to pray for more earthly matters. Not that they're bad things to pray for; my list consists mostly of names of people who are important to me, and it includes specific needs of theirs, some of them earthly and some of them spiritual. But wisdom for myself from God? Nowhere to be found. I should be brave enough to ask for that. I say brave, because we are promised that God will give generously, as long as I believe that He will. And just how is it that He gives that wisdom??? I believe it is mentioned in this passage--it is through trials that our faith is made stronger and that we are made "mature and complete, not lacking anything." What about you? Do you pray often for wisdom? Do you find that it comes to you in moments like these, the more trying times in your life? Any examples that you care to share???

"The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him."--James 1:9-12

----Wait a minute? How is it that James switches subjects on us so quickly, without even the slightest hint of a decent segue? First he's talking about asking for wisdom from God and having faith that God will give it. Then all of a sudden he goes off on the necessity of being humble, warning that the rich man will fade away??? Then he goes back to persevering under trial, telling us that those of us that persevere will receive a crown of life??? The only way this makes sense to me is to realize that he's not necessarily changing subjects...or at least I don't think he is. Seems to me that it's not so much about being rich or poor, high societal position or low societal position, as it is about realizing what is only temporary versus what really matters. And it's when we are persevering through trials that we begin to realize what is truly important and put the more temporary things into perspective. I think his point is that even if you are rich in this life, if you place your stake in earthly things, concentrating solely on your earthly business, you will fade away. However the one who focuses on the business of loving the Lord will receive a crown of life. What a stark contrast! Fading away like a withered wildlflower that is scorched by the heat, versus a crown of life eternal! Do you think this is a fair interpretation? Why, or why not?

"When tempted, no one should say, 'God is tempting me.' for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created."--James 1:13-18

----Here's a little better segue, as he moves on from talking about persevering in trial to remind us that, when we are tempted and face trials, not to blame the Lord. James says that rather than blame God, we should be grateful to Him, recognizing that all that is good is from Him. He reminds us that it is our own earthly desires that lead us into the temptations in the first place. Evil desire gives birth to sin, which gives birth to death. Doesn't quite add up to me...giving birth to death??? Isn't that an oxymoron?!?!?! I think it's meant to be so, and it's abundantly clear as James elaborates on the goodness of God. He contrasts the oxymoron of sin giving birth to death with God giving us birth through the word of truth! That makes us the firstfruits of God's creation!!! What does this mean??? Well, "first fruits" usually refers to an offering up to God, giving Him what is gathered first, rather than mere leftovers. We, as Christians, are the first of His creation, rather than mere leftovers. Besides being a prized and loved firstfruits of His creation, we also become firstfruits to the Lord as we become living sacrifices--the aroma of Christ. Any thoughts on what else it might mean to be "a kind of firstfruits of all He created"???

"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen ot the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does. --James 1:19-25

----So how is it that we become this firstfruits, this aroma of Christ? He stated that God gives us that birth through the word of truth. So it makes sense, then, that James would encourage people to pay attention to the word. He warns us to get rid of the filth and evil which might drag us away and instead, focus on His word. We are to look into it intently, so that we remember what it says we are to do. Then we are to do it! In fact, as we were studying this passage last fall, one girl stated that her version used the phrase "effectual doer." That is, one who doesn't just give to others the appearance of "doing" but one who is being effective, having an impact on the world around them by listening to His word and doing His will. Does anyone have any idea which version it is that uses the phrase "effectual doer"? It's not NIV, because that's what I use, and I don't think it's KJV either, because that's what my E-sword on my computer is, and I didn't see it there. Anyone???

"If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."--James 1:26-27

----Here he goes again, changing subjects on us again. Or does he? These last two verses, though seeming a little unrelated to the previous passage (or to each other for that matter!) are, I believe, a good summary of what has been said thus far. When James is talking about keeping a tight reign on one's tongue, I wonder if it's because he remembers the words of Jesus from Matt. 12:34, when He says that "...out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks." I wonder if James' point is that if you cannot keep a tight rein on your tongue, it may be a sign that your heart is not right. And God is abundantly clear, throughout His word, that the heart, not outward religion, is what matters most to Him. Likewise, I believe, is the last verse of this chapter. For Jesus also said that "Whatever you did for the least of these, you did for me." Our hearts must be pleasing to God, and for our hearts to be pleasing to God, we've got to have a heart for our fellow man, and in doing so, we will have an effect on the world around us. Oh yeah, and remember, once again, while helping your fellow men in the world, not to be polluted by the world, with its evil desires that give birth to sin and death.

At least, that's what I think James is trying to say here. Again, your comments are appreciated, as I study in preparation for camp! I'm excited, can hardly wait!!! Much love!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Why Are You Wasting Your Time Here???

Especially when you could be reading something much more creative and inspiring than anything I would have to say??? Just click here! Have a great day! And much love!

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Five Weeks!!!

This Thursday evening I will be traveling down to Arkadelphia, AR to have a planning meeting with some of my favorite brothers and sisters in the Lord. You see, every summer since I started college, save the summer right after I graduated, I've spent a week in the middle of July counseling church camp.

Barton Bible Camp, owned by the Murfreesboro Church of Christ in Murfreesboro, AR, it is a rather small church camp down near Daisy, AR on the beautiful Lake Greeson. Not the most convenient plac e to be...it's pretty remotely located. Not the most relaxing place to be...if you know anything about junior high aged kiddos. Not the coolest place to be...and I mean "cool" in its more traditional usage...because last summer there was a thermometer that was in a shaded place and...no exaggeration...it read 104 degrees! Not the nicest campgrounds...I've been to much nicer facilities...you know, ones with air conditioning in all the buildings, not just the cabins; ones with swimming pools, rather than a lake which requires a 1/2 mile hike down a jagged, steep hill (which can be very dangerous in the dark, btw) just to baptize someone into Christ. And, frankly, now that I am no longer in college, my time is much more limited. There are no more summers off, and I could think of many other things I could be doing with my precious vacation time.

Did I mention that Barton is absolutely my favorite place in the world to be? Sure, it's remotely located! That just means that when we roll into town (if you can call it that) on the Saturday before camp begins, we know we will find a packed house at a little diner (which, if I'm not mistaken, is the only eating place in Daisy) called Gayle's. Not to mention that Saturday night at Gayle's is "Karaoke Night!" (I've got an awesome story about Gayle's, if you're interested, lemme know, and I'll share it w/ya..what a small world it is!) Sure it's not the coolest place in the world! That just means you'll appreciate the swim in the lake that much more! Sure, the facilities aren't as nice as they could be! But who cares when you spend the majority of your day outdoors anyway, whether participating in sports activities with the kids or sitting outside in the midst of His glorious creation, praising Him and worshipping Him for it! And sure, it's not the most relaxing place to be either! But that's okay when you're surrounded by such vibrant kiddos with so much energy it's contagious. Who needs sleep when you can spend your days teaching precious young souls more about Christ and you can spend your evenings till the wee hours of the morning visiting with precious brothers and sisters in the Lord that you only see a few times a year!

And sure, I suppose there are other things I could be doing with my precious vacation time. However, I've got a spot in my heart for church camps of any kind. They played a big part in my spiritual walk with God when I was younger. I was even baptized at a church camp!!! As a camper I always thought, "I can't wait to be able to be a camp counselor!" Now that I've done that, I've walked in those shoes, I can only say that sentiment is a million times stronger! I long for this week of every year to roll around, where I can spend my time reaching out to kids at such an age where they are just beginning to learn what faith really is; when we, as counselors, can help them to realize the abundant life that God has in store for them, if only they'll trust in Him; when I can see kids come into our camp year in and year out each summer for several years and watch them put their faith in the Lord and then grow to love Him. Funny, I can't think of anything more precious that I could be doing with my vacation time.

Here is a picture of the pavilion full of campers lifting their voices in praise to God!















Sunday, June 10, 2007

Random Thought...

I realize that such things as fashion go in cycles. Unfortunately, I believe I've been seeing alot of stuff from the 80's cycle back "into fashion." Don't get me wrong, the 80's was a good decade, over all. Good music, IMHO. Not to mention it's the decade in which yours truly was born. However, the clothing and hair need to stay in the 80's.

Except for one thing...

Surely y'all remember the Hypercolor shirts, right??? Those were just too cool!

Sorry, I'm thinking of that now as I drink out of a cup from Eskimo Joe's in Stillwater, OK, a "hypercolor" cup, if you will. That's right, I've got a cup with some iced tea in it. The cup itself is a light greenish-yellow. But when filled with an icy-cold beverage, it turns dark greenish-blue!!! And when I pick it up to take a sip, the place where my hand was, providing heat, turns back yellow!!!

So yes, although all hairdos and most fashion deserve to stay in the 80's, I am reminded of how much fun the Hypercolor shirts were--bring back the Hypercolor!!!

It's offical...I am so easily amused!!!

Dark green......yellow......dark green......yellow......dark green.....

More on Worship...

Confession time...

One of the things I look forward to each week in getting my church bulletin is getting a sneak preview of our Sunday "worship services" (I despise that terminology, by the way). I love being able to know what to expect ahead of time, as far as what songs we're gonna sing, what verses we're gonna read, and what the sermon is gonna be about. This week, however, I confess that when I saw it, I was a little disappointed. Sad, I know. I get excited when it's going to be a "service" that I know will be uplifting for me, personally--mainly songs that I like; and I get disappointed when I don't like the particular songs, scriptures, etc. that they've chosen.

I know I shouldn't feel like that; it's as though I am only contributing to the tremendous amount of pressure that is on our worship planning teams in trying to create a "worship service" that will be uplifting for as many as possibly 1500 different people. Not an easy task, by any means, so I respect them for putting forth that effort. And since I realize this, on the times that i feel disappointment, I have to work at it. It doesn't mean worship won't be good or uplifting for me; it just means that I'll have to work at it to stay engaged and focused. Interestingly enough, this morning, although I was not personally a fan of most of the songs that we sang, I was very engaged by another part of the worship that is not normally as uplifting for me as the singing is; that is, the scripture reading this morning spoke to me, more so than it usually does.

I'm sure you all don't wanna read more of my thoughts on worship, and for that I apologize, but it's been on my mind ALOT lately, especially on days like today (Sunday, that is!) so that's why I'm sharing this...

Having recently read a chapter of Darryl Tippens book Pilgrim Heart, a chapter entitled "Singing: The Way to Heaven's Door", posted at the wineskins.org website and the accompanying portion of the study guide, by Angela and Keith Brenton, also posted at wineskins, I've been examining alot of aspects of singing and worship in general. And I've thought about it alot this weekend, as I anticipate the arrival of that book, which I ordered last week. The study guide came in the mail on Friday...now if only I had the actual book!

But having only read that one chapter, it's stayed with me unusually long...I believe it was a couple of weeks ago that I read it, and I am still meditating on it! Perhaps because I am such a music person. No doubt about it, I am officially a band nerd. Was in band all the way from 6th grade through college. The only nerdier band nerds are those music majors...most of whom were my closest friends in college! I love music. And I love to sing. (Ironically, I tend to be pretty shy about singing in front of people...go figure!) A couple of questions in particular in the study guide have kept me thinking about it. It is challenged, "If you do not sing loudly during triumphant songs of praise in your worship at church, try it. Remind yourself that God doesn't expect your voice to be better than the one He gave you. Speak to others so that they can hear your words of encouragement. Join in enthusiastically when there are songs that do not particularly speak to you, but do speak to some of your brothers and sisters in Christ." That is quite a challenge for me...but was especially on my mind this morning, when, as I mentioned earlier, the particular song selection didn't speak to me.

Also, the question is raised, "Is part of the power of singing its communal nature? What other worship activities do we perform in such a clearly communal way? Should our practice of communion and prayer be more community-oriented than individualistic?" I've given ALOT of thought to that question as well. Any type of music-making that I've ever participated in as part of a group has been very communal. It's not any one of us making music; it's all of us together that make the music beautiful. I'd like to think the same thing of our songs of praise in corporate worship. We all lift up music to His throne, while encouraging each other at the same time, and that's what makes it beautiful. Unfortunately, it seems to me that almost everything else we do in worship is lacking in a communal nature, especially (ironically) communion.

We usually listen to others read scripture to us. I don't know about everyone else, but for me, personally, that is one of the most dis-engaging parts of worship; I don't do well listening to someone else read to me. Most of the time I don't have time to pick my Bible up and open to the scripture being read before the reader starts. It helps to have the words up on the screen. But I've grown to love the congregational readings that we do (we did one this morning!) because then I am more engaged, as I am reading from God's word. In fact, a lot of the time, in an effort to stay engaged and focused, I'll catch myself quietly mouthing the words to all the scriptures read, whether they are intended to be congregational readings or not.

Praying in corporate worship seems to be a little difficult as well, sometimes. We all tend to bow our heads and close our eyes. Doesn't seem communal to me at all. Most of the time, I don't close my eyes, because if I do so, my mind tends to wander. Again, sometimes it helps to mouth the same words that the person leading us in prayer is saying. Communal prayer is much easier in smaller groups, though. I loved when, growing up, we would say a "chain prayer" where everyone in the group would have the opportunity to pray aloud. Probably haven't done that since I was in high school. Of course, that wouldn't work in a large gathering. However, there is something we did when I was in high school that was effective, at least for me. Our youth group would always sit together in worship, and we somehow got into the habit of holding hands during prayer. I think we were the only ones in our assembly that would...but anytime any prayer was led in worship, our little section, our three or four rows of teenagers, would always, automatically hold hands with the people on either side of us. What can I say, I'm one of those "touchy-feely" people that loves hugs, etc. So I thought this was a great idea. I realize not everyone is this way, so not everyone may be comfortable with holding the hand of someone that they may not necessarily know that well. But what do you need to know, really? They are your brother/sister, and you all get to talk to God together. Something that simple is a nice way to be connected to each other as we approach His throne in prayer.

I'm not sure how we could make our giving more communal. It feels communal to me, as we usually sing during the offering at our church; so that tends to work for me. It's also helped for me, in the past, whenever we've taken up a special offering for a specific purpose. Then, you have the opportunity to see something specific that all the monies collected from the group accomplish. Any other ideas on that?

Communion...where do I begin? We tend to take it individually, not looking at each other, not wanting to distract anyone, as each person is reflecting on the sacrifice that the Lord has made for them. But in doing so, I fear that we miss out on so much more! I would love for the day to come when we can enjoy fellowship as we commune at the Lord's table. I think I've done this once in my life, again, when I was in high school. When we were at a retreat, on a Sunday morning, we were all given a larger-than-your-typical-pinch-size piece of the unleavened bread. We were instructed to find one person to share the communion with. So after the bread and cup were blessed, we got up, moved around the room, and found one person that we wanted to share the communion with. We shared with them why it was that we wanted to share that communion experience with them; we spent a few minutes talking about our individual walks with Christ; we reflected on His sacrifice for our sins; then we took of His body and His blood. I think it was one of the most amazing things I've ever done in a "worship service," and I'm sure I'll never forget it.

I suppose this covers my thoughts on how our worship should/could be more communal. At least it covers the "five acts of worship" that we practice in our assemblies together. I'd be interested to know what you all think about this. It's just something that I think of often now, because, as I've said before, my church family is the only family that is actually in close physical proximity to me. My biological family is a couple of hours away. So the communal nature of my church family is important to me, because they are important to me. I love the fact that I can be two hours away from my family and still have brothers and sisters just down the street from me.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Yet Another Way to Be a Bad Christian...

If you're not new to my blog, you know that on Wednesday nights in our Singles class, we've spent the past several weeks discussing "Eight Ways to Be a Bad Christian" from Matthew 23. If you are new to my blog, you can find the previous posts in this series here and here. Last night we moved on to Number 6:

Make big things out of small things and small things out of big things.

"Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices--mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law--justice, mercy, and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel."--Matt. 23:23-24

I don't have a "Rather, Jesus said..." for this, because his instructions are already in the passage. Practice the latter, without neglecting the former. However, we did look at a couple of passages in the Old Testament that are strikingly parallel to what Jesus is saying here. Let me just share those with you:

"With what shall I come before the Lord and bow down before the exalted God? Shall I come before Him with burnt offerings, with calves a year old? Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousand rivers of oil? Shall I offer my firstborn for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul? He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God."--Micah 6:6-8

And, one that I like even better, just because of the beautiful imagery in it:

"I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings and grain offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!"--Amos 5:21-24

The law of Moses commanded the Israelites to give to God a tenth of everything. Granted, the giving of the spices probably held more meaning for the Israelites then, than it does for us today. But still...in the grand scheme of things...the spices were relatively small. Yet the Pharisees were determined to get that part right. Unfortunately, according to Micah, Amos, and Jesus, they could give a tenth of everything, from the spices to their firstborn; but without justice, mercy, righteousness, faithfulness, and humility, it would mean nothing to God.

That's what the Pharisees were missing. They couldn't see the forest for the trees. Here are a few examples of previous behavior of the Pharisees that we discussed last night.

1. John 8:1-11--They drag a woman, caught in adultery, to Jesus, questioning Him about what to do with her, in an effort to trap him. Notice a lack of justice--where was the man? Notice an even bigger lack of mercy--they're ready to stone the woman! Notice a lack of concern for righteousness--their hearts were not burdened with the fact that this woman had sinned; she was a mere pawn in their effort to trap the Teacher. I will give them the humility on this one, but only after-the-fact. Only after Jesus, in His wisdom, pointed out that they all were sinners.

2. Luke 13:10-17--They throw a fit because Jesus healed a crippled woman on the Sabbath. Notice a lack of justice--although they would gladly free an animal on the Sabbath, they were unwilling to allow Jesus to free a fellow human being. Notice a lack of mercy--why aren't they happy that a woman is finally free from nearly two decades of suffering? And notice that once again, they were humiliated by the words of the Master.

3. John 9:1-34--Jesus heals a "blind dude" (as Alan referred to him on Keith's blog!), once again, on the Sabbath. You'd think He'd learn. Or, rather, you'd think that the Pharisees would learn that the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. But no...here we go again. This time, there is an investigation, with witnesses questioned. The man himself was questioned. Lack of mercy? You bet--nobody is happy for this guy that his life has been changed for the better. But that's okay for this guy; after experiencing Christ's amazing grace, all he has to say is "I was blind but now I see." Lack of righteousness? Right again...in fact, the blind dude calls them on it. He reminds them that "God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does His will." But they would not have it. Lack of justice? They got angry and threw him out, this time, not realizing that they, as well, were just as much sinners as the guy that they just threw out.

4. Luke 7:36-50--While Jesus is dining in the home of a Pharisee, a woman of ill repute anoints His feet with perfume and her tears and wipes them off with her hair. Simon, who was obviously not a very good Pharisee, because he actually kept his thoughts to himself rather than saying them out loud, thinks judgementally of this woman, rather than mercifully. Jesus teaches Simon a lesson in humility, while honoring the woman's faithfulness.

Now, we must ask, how often are we like that? As Chuck pointed out, it's always a little worrisome when you hear someone railing on the Pharisees, because to be quite honest, their biggest problem was that they were alot like us. Would we ever be more concerned with our own skewed idea of justice, rather than with showing mercy to a fellow sinner? Would we ever be more concerned with keeping the smallest details of the law, with no concern for the suffering of our fellow brothers and sisters? Would we ever be more concerned with preserving our power and protecting our turf, because we're unsure of where something new comes from, never mind the fact that lives are being changed for the better because of it? Would we ever see a brother or sister who is tearful and repentant, and look down upon them in judgement, rather than accepting them as our Savior has?

Just a few questions that I think may be worth asking. Continue to stay tuned...

Monday, June 4, 2007

Sunshine and Summertime!

So many things I love about this wonderful season!

Summertime...sunshine...sandals...sweltering heat...swimming...studying...SPF 50...

Yep, you read all of those right! Allow me to elaborate...

Summertime--I loved this season as a kid, of course, because it meant I didn't have to go to school. Still love the season because it's the season of my birthday, my handsome nephew's birthday, and my parents' birthdays! (That means we get lots of cake!)

Sunshine--it's just beautiful! And nice and warm! So warm that I can wear...

Sandals--I've always preferred to be a barefoot girl! My feet like to breathe. In sandals, my feet can breathe even when I have to wear shoes (like to work, church, etc.) But any other time, I prefer no shoes. I love that during the summer I can walk outside barefoot on the warm concrete. That is until the concrete is too hot because of the...

Sweltering heat--Growing up in the south, you just learn to get used to it. But I can even be thankful for it, because it makes me appreciate the fact that I won't be spending eternity in it!

Swimming--A wonderful way to cool off from the sweltering heat! Especially now that I live in an apartment complex with two pools (rather than none!) and I can spend every evening taking a dip if I wanted to!

Studying--Yeah, that one's right as well, in fact it's my favorite on the list, I do believe. One of my favorite things to do is read while laying out by the pool! I started on Memorial Day w/Max Lucado's Facing Your Giants. And I'm so excited, I went this afternoon and bought me a bunch of good summertime reads so that I can spend countless more hours by the pool this summer, studying, sitting at the feet of more seasoned Christians than myself. I bought Lucado's Cure for the Common Life. Ya know what I love about him? He's such an easy read, I can read one of his books in one sitting (what can I say, I like a challenge! ha!) I also bought Prayer: Does it Make a Difference? by Philip Yancey. I've never read anything of his, but I hear he is good. I ordered Come to the Table by John Mark Hicks (I've read lots of good stuff about his writing on the internet!), Righteousness Inside Out by Mike Cope (just one I stumbled across on Amazon in searching for a couple of others; haven't heard him preach in over a decade, but I enjoy reading his blog!), and Pilgrim Heart by Darryl Tippens (someone else I've never read, save a chapter of this book that's posted at wineskins; but my minister, who always has good book suggestions, keeps referring to it in his sermons). Along w/this one I ordered the Study Guide by Angela and Keith Brenton (I don't know anything about Angi, but based on Keith's blog...I expect excellence!) So yes...studying...I think I spent nearly $80 on what I hope will be some excellent poolside studying material! Of course, all this laying out by the pool reading all summer will require me to use some...

SPF 50--Because you know without it, this fair-skinned, red-haired girl will roast, toast, and burn to a crisp in a matter of MINUTES!!!

So many things I love about this season. Wanna know one more thing that I love that isn't necessarily associated with summertime?

SLEEP.

Much love and good nite!

Friday, June 1, 2007

Awaiting Worship...

When I ask the question, "What is worship?" what is the first thing that pops in your mind? I know that for me, the first mental picture I get is of myself sitting in a church pew, singing and/or listening to a preacher. I would suspect that it's the same way for most others. Am I correct?

But what is worship, really? Merriam-Webster says it is "an act of expressing reverence offered a divine being or supernatural power" or, my favorite, "extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem." I LOVE that second one, of course, my object of esteem being my God. That changes things a little bit. I would certainly hope that I express that reverence, extravagant respect, and admiration to my God, and that I act upon my devotion to Him, every moment of my life. Not just on Sundays. In fact, in discussing worship, Romans 12:1 has become one of my favorite verses of all the Bible...and that says alot, considering how difficult it is for me to pinpoint certain "favorites"; there are so many that I love. But I can honestly say that verse is one of my favorites. It reads, "Therefore, I urge you brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship." There's A LOT that I don't know, but that's one concept that, although seemingly missed by so many in my fellowship of Christians, I do believe that I understand. Never in the Bible is worship spoken of as only five particular things that are done when we're all together in a particular building.

So why is it that we remain so focused on the corporate worship assembly??? In my church, our elders have set out to hire a worship minister, because they feel that there are certain parts of our corporate worship that need improvement and consistency. Some people in our church have questions about this; some are for it; some are against it; some may be indifferent. But it's definitely something that seems to have everyone's attention. Why is that? Why so much focus on the little bit of time we spend in corporate worship???

I'm not sure I have the answer for that. In fact, I'll admit that I'm one who puts alot of emphasis on the corporate assembly. More and more, I find myself anticipating Sundays and Wednesdays, longing for those two days to come quickly. I find myself recognizing the need in our church for a worship minister. I find myself surfing our church website on Wednesdays or Thursdays, looking to see if the new bulletin or "order of worship" for the coming Sunday is posted yet. I especially find myself awaiting our corporate assembly this Sunday, when we will have one, Jerome Williams, leading us into the throne room of God. I eagerly anticipate this Sunday, and, having already seen the order of worship for it, I know that we will be blessed by it.

But wait a minute...remember our definition of worship? It's about expressing to Him our extravagant respect and admiration; it's not about us. Or is it? Interesting that Paul follows up Romans 12:1 with the rest of Romans 12. What does the rest of Romans 12 say? In a nutshell, it says four things:

1. Be transformed by the renewing of your minds (have the right attitude).
2. Act together, as differing parts of the same Body.
3. Love one another sincerely.
4. Be good to one another.

Is there a pattern here, or is it just me? The verses that follow up our instruction about our spiritual act of worship have to do with how we treat each other. Could it possibly be that God is most extravagantly praised when we treat others, who are made in His image, with kindness? Or when we, in an effort to reflect His glory, show His love to one another as brothers and sisters in Him? Perhaps worship is more about us than I originally thought.

Perhaps that's why I anticipate our corporate worship so much. At first, being away from home at college, and now, especially, being away from my family and being single, I believe I've learned what it is to have a Christian family made up of people who are TRULY my brothers and sisters, and I don't take that lightly. I know what it is to desire to fellowship "with glad and sincere hearts....praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people."

Perhaps we don't have enough emphasis on our time spent together.

Perhaps that's why there's so much focus on the little bit of time spent together in corporate worship.

Because there's so little of it?