Seasons Change

I have owned several copies of Oswald Chambers’ book, “My Utmost for His Highest”. He seemed to be so legalistic, expecting more performance than I could ever muster.

But then a friend tweeted and posted a FB request that everyone read a particular entry. I did. And I’m hooked.

I will note that I have an updated version, which is much easier to read than the original.

My listening notes for today:

Faith by its very nature must be tested and tried. And the real trial of faith is not that we find it difficult to trust God, but that God’s character must be proven as trustworthy in our own minds.

– Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 31

By Your Side – Tenth Avenue North

Sola Scriptura – Lundie Style

I am pretty sure I have written about Sola Scriptura (“by scripture alone”) before. I believe it was in the context of the Seventh Day (Sabbath) being the true Sabbath. I’m still not 100% sure where I stand on the whole “day of worship” and “Sabbath” issue – but that’s not what this post is about.

After hearing it from a couple different places, I have decided that my morning time with my Bible will be just with a journal and my Bible. I have had a lot of white noise when it comes to what it means to be a Christian. While there are a lot of really good books out there by people expounding on what Christian life should look like, I have come to a place where I need to weed out the interpretations of others and take some time to read for myself*.

I’ve decided to start with the book of John. I read a chapter (or a portion of a chapter if it’s long) and just let it sink in. I read it a few times, then I journal about my impressions.

Interestingly enough, I hear this same message today from what I read.

John 4:39-42

Many Samaritans from the village believed in Jesus because the woman had said, “He told me everything I ever did!” When they came out to see him, they begged him to stay at their village. So he stayed for two days, long enough for many of them to hear his message and believe. Then they said to the woman, “Now we believe because we have heard him ourselves, not just because of what you told us. He is indeed the Savior of the world.”

So, that’s where I am today, and for this season — spending long enough to hear His message for myself, not just because of what someone else tells me.


*PS: Technically, I probably believe more in Prima Scriptura rather than Sola Scriptura, but I am SOOOO far from having a debate on these issues that this is where I will end my commentary on the topic.

Thinking About Things

Excerpts from Romans 7:21 – 8:16
It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another law at work within me that is at war with my mind. This law wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin? Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. The law of Moses could not save us, because of our sinful nature. But God put into effect a different plan to save us. He sent his own Son in a human body like ours, except that ours are sinful. God destroyed sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the requirement of the law would be fully accomplished for us who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. If your sinful nature controls your mind, there is death. But if the Holy Spirit controls your mind, there is life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you…. So, dear brothers and sisters, you have no obligation whatsoever to do what your sinful nature urges you to do. For if you keep on following it, you will perish. But if through the power of the Holy Spirit you turn from it and its evil deeds, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.

So you should not be like cowering, fearful slaves. You should behave instead like God’s very own children, adopted into his family — calling him “Father, dear Father”. For his Holy Spirit speaks to us deep in our hearts and tells us that we are God’s children.

Truths from this that I want to highlight (and remember):

  • I have a sinful nature. It’s part of the package I got when I was born, due to the Adam & Eve thing… I will not be rid of this sinful nature until heaven. It will continue to be a factor in my life until then. Sometimes I feel that God blames me for not being perfect – for being born with this sinful nature. But God doesn’t condemn me for having that sinful nature. In fact, he sent Jesus to free me from the obligations to it.
  • When I get lazy and revert to my “natural state”, my sinful nature emerges and my thinking drifts to sinful things, I fall into doing sinful things, and I feel “hostile to God”.
  • That state of hostility is not irreversable. I have “no obligation whatsoever to do what my sinful nature urges [me] to do”. Once again I’m reminded that I have the power to choose. I often feel like I am a slave to my feelings. I get tired of fighting against the fear, worry, anger, frustration that I feel. But Jesus did what he did so that I have a choice.
  • As I am reading in “The 4:8 Principle”, I have to exercise that choice, consciously, to think about things that please the Spirit.

So, that’s my goal today….to be conscious of my thoughts. To move them onto God, and things that please Him.

Exposure

Sometimes when I finally “get it” it hurts. My heart hurts from the joy, sadness, relief, wonder. I am in disbelief that God just talked to me. Little ol’ me. He just put things into place in front of me in a way that clicked. The best kind of learning. The joy of dots being connected in my mind and heart. No, not the discovery of the meaning of life, but almost.

I had one of those moments this morning. My heart hurts with the joy of wanting to just tell everyone exactly what happened, how it happened, in the hopes of sharing that kind of moment with others. I know I can’t re-create it. I think it was the infinitesimally brief moment of connection with God. Any more than that and I think it would literally kill me.

Several nights ago I got another brief message that I recognized as “from God”. The message was simple. “Expose yourself” (in relation to Him). I’ve started to realize that these mini messages can mean any number of things. Does that mean “expose” in the sense that I need to be more brutally honest about myself TO God? Or does that mean “expose” in the sense that I need to be more exposed to God as a form of input – face time with God. Though I am trying to improve on both areas, the latter seemed the more important.

Since I don’t have a regular morning devotional book, and I’m not currently using any kind of regulated Bible reading plan, I spent a day or so mulling over what more exposure to God would mean. I settled on reading the Gospels. I haven’t spent time there in a long time.

As I’ve recently shared, I struggle with legalism, and yet any mention of the Law in the Bible throws up a mental road block. Today I was reading in Matthew 5. Verses 17-20 are where I found my “a ha!”. I want to share my journal entry because, well, I want to put it out there in case someone else needs the same message I got today.

The verse I read in my version of the NLT

Matthew 5:17-20 NLT
[Jesus talking here – giving the “Sermon on the Mount”] “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them. I assure you, until heaven and earth disappear, even the smallest detail of God’s law will remain until it’s purpose is achieved. So if you break the smallest commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be great in the Kingdom of Heaven. but I warn you — unless you obey God better than the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees do, you can’t enter the Kingdom of Heaven at all!”

My Journal Notes:

“September 19, 2008
Matt 5:17-20
Did Jesus say all of this to highlight the “old way”? He’s talking about your/our ranking in the K of H, then closes saying unless we’re perfect following the law we’re out of luck anyway…

It’s hard sometimes because Jesus’ death changed it all, so it is confusing to me to read his words to know if what he says is part of the old or the new.

God has absolute requirements (the law). Those requirements have literally no way of being met.

God can’t change who He is. Those requirements are facts. Laws of God are Laws of Nature. He didn’t arbitrarily choose them, they just are. Jesus came to fill the requirement so we could have that relationship with God.

This is the part that swirls my brain.
— God and sin can’t coexist – it’s one of the “rules”, “laws”, “facts”.
— God’s “laws” are just examples of many many ways to illustrate what sin/evil/wrong is.

Jesus, in the rest of chapter 5, was establishing that he wasn’t a dissenter, a rabble-rouser, a radical trying to change the truth about God. He was telling the people that the God of the Jews is still the same God, his laws are even more difficult (impossible) to keep, but still to be desired. They [the laws] were still in force and always will be. Laws = Right. But he came to fulfill them because we are not capable. He is the SOLUTION to: How can God and I be in a close relationship when I am a sinful human and God cannot be connected with sin?”

Legalism in my life is when I think that I somehow can work harder to meet God’s requirements of perfection. Any striving I do in that area leaves me bitter and angry. I will NEVER be able to modify my behavior in a way that is good enough. Never. If I end there, then I’m miserable.

God so badly wants to be with me (us) anyway that he worked up a plan that would take care of his laws and would restore our relationship. That plan was Jesus. Jesus fulfilled the requirements (laws) with his perfection, took the (undeserved) punishment for sin FOR us. Because of Jesus, I do not have to struggle to live up to anything in order to be connected to God. God is not repelled by my sin any longer. If I accept all this (everything I’ve written here), then Jesus’ life and death are EVERYTHING to me. It’s my way out of legalism. It’s my restoration. It’s my hope.

Hey, guess what! That’s “Good News”! 😉

Seriously, though, I know what I have written is very simple to some. Being stuck in legalism is nasty. It’s a place of “not getting it”. So many voices saying “But it CAN’T be that simple…”. I think it is.


– – – – – – – –

Post Script:
The K-Love verse of the day…

This is real love — not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.
~ 1 John 4:10, NLT

Be Still, huh?

I’m getting another common message.  My friend Heidi, and Soul Revolution author John Burke have both written something I think God’s trying to tell me.

Even now, I’m writing instead of taking time to be still…so…I’m gonna go now…

God and People

The message last week in church (will post a link if I can find the video) was inspired by John Ortberg’s book, “When the Game is Over, It All Goes Back in the Box“.  It’s had me thinking this week, as I struggle with priorities.  There’s just too much to do in my life, how do I decide what the important stuff is?

The answer is: God & People.  These are the two things that do not “go back in the box” at the end of this game we call life.  I don’t know why I was surprised to learn this considering Jesus said that very same thing when asked what the most important commandment was:

Jesus replied, “The most important commandment is this: ‘Listen, O Israel! The Lord our God is the one and only Lord.  And you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength.’ The second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ No other commandment is greater than these.”

– Mark 12:29-31

That’s got me asking myself what I am doing to improve my relationships in these areas.  The 60-60 Experiment is all about me and God.  Last night, before bed I read this verse, which just affirmed this idea:

You will show me the way of life, granting me the joy of your presence and the pleasures of living with you forever.

– Psalm 16:11

That’s the “way of life”.  Having the joy of God’s presence, living with Him.  Forever.  Pretty cool.

The rest is about helping other people to find that out too.

There is no time like the present…

“For the next 60 days, try to stay in a continuous, honest conversation with God, willing to do his will moment by moment.”

SoulRevolution.net

This is the beginning of a challenge put forth by John Burke in his soon to be released book, Soul Revolution: How Imperfect People Become All God Intended.

John Burke spoke at the Leadership Summit and lodged some serious nuggets in my brain.

I missed out on being able to buy an advanced copy of his book.  🙁  Sadly, I was unaware that it had not yet hit stores, so I just figured I’d pick one up from Amazon.  It will not be shipped until October 1.

But God is moving in my mind and in my heart.  I am going to start the challenge by myself, right now.  Life’s too short, and this is too important, to put off until later.

Anyone want to join me?

Tidbit

I read Dave Ferguson’s blog entry last night on hearing from God everyday.

I watched portions of a video on the DARPA Grand Challenge, a competition to create driverless cars.  In the video they explained how the software had to be written to handle the plethora of course corrections needed to keep the vehicles on course as things in the environment changed around them.

I realized that we’re made exactly the same way.  We can’t expect our weekly “church fix” of guidance from God to keep us fed and motivated and guided through all the “stuff” that comes up throughout the week.  Goodness – try all the “stuff” that comes up throughout a single DAY!

Not unlike the satellites that feed directions to the GPS units, we have a Father who has the birds’ eye view of life as we know it.  Why WOULDN’T I tap into that?  He’s free.  He’s available 24/7.  No hardware needed.

Yeah.  Just a thought…

Panning for Gold

Ok, so that’s not quite the analogy I am looking for, but was the closest I could come to describing what I’m going through today. I’ve been looking for the big gold nuggets in among all the little ones.

After two intense days at the Leadership Summit, I am now sorting through thoughts and ideas, and re-reading notes to try to see what pieces of what I heard need to stick with me. I do NOT want to come away from this Summit unchanged. I do NOT want to go back to life as usual. I MUST learn and grown and incorporate the things I am convinced God put out there right in front of me.

But what are those things?

I’ve been flipping through the Summit Book*, and I think the three biggest ideas that I’m taking away from this are:

1 – Where I am now

Bill Hybels, in Session 1, started the session off so powerfully, with his humility and passion. He drew a chart of the path of a Christian. There were four stages with the last two being the “Growing Christian” and The “Christ-Centered Person”. The growing Christian says “God bless my program” and the Christ-Centered person says “My life is yours.” I’ve been standing on the edge of the big chasm that separates the two — the chasm that requires that life-sized leap of faith.

Best quote (aka Axiom):

If something feels funky…engage.

2 – What I needed to hear

Gary Haugen’s speech, in Session 2, hit me really hard with his story of going mountain climbing with his father and brothers. Fear paralyzes me so much of the time. I’m consistently searching for ways to make life safer. And while becoming safe, I am becoming stuck.  I came away from this session with this quote:

“Jesus didn’t come to make us safe, he came to make us brave.”

3 – Where I go from here

John Burke, in Session 4, was probably the speaker that motivated me the most. The message of grace that he lives is what I want and need to hear more of. I am SO ready to read his book, “Soul Revolution“, but was crushed to find that it hasn’t even been released yet! I’m ready NOW! 🙂 I have pre-ordered it, printed out the first couple chapters, and joined the Soul Revolution beta community.  I’m ready to do the 60-60 challenge…the goal being to put my energies into connecting with God on a regular and frequent basis.

Best quote:

“Stay connected. Fruit happens.”


*Thank you so much, by the way, to the Willow Creek staff for putting the note taking sheets in between session summaries, and the many sheets in the back half! Very useful!