Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Very Same Moon and Stars

Spring here in the North West of England has so far been quite beautiful. Glorious in fact! But as I sit and write today's post it is freezing cold outside, windy with the occasional snowfall. The UK is known for its temperamental weather and constant rain but without it we would not have such a beautiful green land. I love it! In fact as I shared in a previous post I have always felt God speak to me through creation. Somehow it just makes me feel closer to Him.

My friends and family know how silly I get when I see the moon, a rainbow or just some particular stunning scenery. I'm like a child seeing it for the first time. As I was reading some quotes from Amy Carmichael I was struck by how many times she expressed in such a poetic way my very thoughts. I would like to share them here in the hope of blessing others.

Many travel to Israel to see the very places Jesus and His disciples walked. Mainly I suppose to enrich their faith. But you don't have to leave your front door to do this. Let me share one of those Amy Carmichael quotes:

When I was a little child I used to wish I could touch something that our Lord Jesus touched, or see something that He saw. Then suddenly to my delight I thought, But I can see something that He saw. He saw the very same moon and stars that I see. And I used to look at the moon and think, He saw you, He saw those funny marks in your face we call the man in the moon. He looked up to you just as I look up at you tonight.

I had a similar "revelation" only a couple of weeks ago when I came across a scripture verse in Genesis:

And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. (Gen. 3:16, Italics mine)

As I read "and I will look upon it", I realized that every time I see the rainbow and get excited about it, My heavenly Father, who put it there in the first place, is at the same time looking upon it and thinking of us. This thought just overwhelms me.

Then there are those special moments at night just as you go to bed. You have put on your pj's and brushed your teeth and are about to go to bed when you glance out the window and it almost takes your breath away . . . the moon is out, the sky is clear. It is a particularly beautiful night. At times like this I stand in awe of God and say a prayer of thanks unable to move for the next 5 minutes as I try to take it all in. I used to want to take a photo of nights like these but it just wouldn't do it any justice. Again Amy captures my thoughts perfectly in a quote that really moved me:

Night in the East
Who can forget the first nights in the East? There is the night of velvet depths when the stars burn in ordered distances, one beyond the other for ever and ever. And there is the night when the sky, lit with a little moon, is asleep in gauzy blue and the constellations appear in bright groups; and again there are full-moon nights, when every color of the earth shows clear (only most strangely holy) and you feel it ungrateful to go to sleep while the very trees stand awake and conscious and worshipful.

And you feel it ungrateful to go to sleep. That's me! Many a late night I have had because of this! Times where I have been feeling down or particularly tested and only had to take a look at the night sky and instantly my problems fade and my thoughts turn to God. All I want to do is praise Him and give thanks! Thank you Heavenly Father for the wonderful works of Your hands!

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. (Psalm 19:1)

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

That I May Know Him

Have you ever wondered how to put into words what you want to say? Even if you could, many would still read them and miss the very essence of their content. Unless one has gone through the same experience readers will only understand up to a certain point. For example, a young Christian reading a book written by a seasoned child of God will only glean so much. Picking it up again a few years later when she is older and more seasoned, what was overlooked before is met with sympathy. The Holy Spirit shines light on truths previously missed.

I've pondered for sometime on how to put into words what God has brought me through these past few months and even years. Some may read what I write and not be moved at all. Some may sift every word in a critical spirit looking for something to use in argument, missing any good at all. Then there are those always coming with an open heart, ready to receive and glean something which may be of some help, some comfort, or of some good for their souls. It goes without saying we must pray without ceasing especially when reading anything, asking the Lord to keep us from any error or deception.

I hate rushing any post and quite often it can take hours as I ponder and pray over anything I write. Clicking the publish button is a scary moment! This is one reason I have not posted as often as I have in the past. I also hate posting for the sake of it. There is a great responsibility that comes with anything we share especially online. Our words must reflect the Light within us that we may glorify our God. With all this said I commit all to my God and Saviour with the desire to bring Him glory and honour and to edify the body, His bride.I don't believe for a minute it has to be like that.

Be Zealous!
As a new born babe in Christ I was blissfully unaware of even the word theology. All I knew, with great simplicity, was that God sent His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, to take my place on the cross to die so I can be saved and brought into a right relationship with Him, my heavenly Father. Little did I know of the trials ahead or of having to learn of God as a Father. These days were carefree, full of joy and I felt full of the Holy Spirit. Many have said to me over the years, “Oh yes, that is the zeal we all had when born into the Kingdom. It's the honeymoon period. It soon passes.” I hate that saying! I don't believe for a minute it has to be like that. In fact Jesus tells us to “Be zealous”, Rev.3:19.

Over the years the enemy came and did what he does best . . . steal, kill and try to destroy! Seeing my weak points he used hurt to try and cause unforgiveness and bitterness to grow within. God's strength was made perfect in my weakness. The Lord used this for good and continues to do so. Then came something that caught me off guard. I had the basics (the essential doctrines) of faith, was growing in my relationship with God when suddenly before I even knew it I was in a world of many various points of view of Christian doctrines. Arminianism , Calvinism, Pre-Trib, Post-Trib etc. The schools of thought seemed to never end. Then there are those longing for the "good old days" and trying to bring back the old manna of yesterday even naming themselves after that particular group. Which brings up the issue of the many denominations today. Entering this world and taking hold of what seemed the right point of view at the time I became engrossed in defending that view. My bookshelf showed it. My way of looking at everything did too and unfortunately this resulted in outright judgmentalism, legalism and a critical spirit towards my brothers and sisters in the Lord. This was a few years ago. Now but coming through it, I had lost my zeal and vision. What now?

With the benefit of hindsight I can almost see the Lord looking at me and saying, “Have you quite finished now? Have you come to the end of yourself and stopped striving? OK, now follow Me.” I realized I stopped following the Lord and listening to His voice. Somehow, somewhere I listened to the voice of a stranger. Now was the time to listen to the Good Shepherd's voice, the one I knew so well. So what did He say to me? Well for a while I had on my heart peacemaking. All this time I wasn't in a particular fellowship. I knew I did not leave the last one well and believed relationships needed to be restored including any past hurts forgiven of.

After some time seeking the Lord I found it was my relationship with Him that needed attention first. He was drawing me closer to Himself. I realized I had not been pursuing God but religion. Religion had brought with it a set structure and told you how things were. It was a way of being brought into the bondage of legalism. Man is very good at taking a truth and turning it into a doctrine! It's very subtle at first and only people on the outside can see what's going on. In it you cannot see what it is doing to you. Joy has gone only to be replaced by seriousness. A lightness of spirit replaced by a heavy one and fear, worry and anxiety abound. Worst of all your view of God changes from loving Father to someone you fear if you don't meet with the theological interpretation you are following. Again, I am talking about the non essentials.I JUST LOVE THE LORD!

BUT NOW I AM FREE! Free to love God, to know Him, to grow in my knowledge of Him, to allow self to be crucified so I can become more like Him, and to just abide in Him! I JUST LOVE THE LORD! I am a child of God. And that's it, knowing who you are in Him. To find out who a fellow brother or sister is some will ask, “What denomination are you?” or “What is your theology?” Then if it does not agree with their point of view they will either write you off or categorize you in the hope of one day "converting you"! When someone replied, “I'm a Christian” it would annoy me. But now I understand!Big fat pride kept saying no!

As I continued to listen, the Lord began to reveal His will. Over and over I kept getting the words "keep moving forward: and Phillipians 3:13-14. “But Lord”, I thought, “Forward where?” And that's when I knew in order to move forward I had to go back. Yes, I had to go back to my old fellowship! I knew with all my heart I had to go back but big fat pride kept saying no! Confirmation after confirmation came through my daily readings until one day I surrendered to God's will. The day I went back (I called it a tester day, at this point it was official only between God and I) the whole sermon was on the very scriptures God had been giving me! What has ensued since going back is nothing short of miraculous. The changes in me (zeal is back!), the miracles I've seen with God stepping into situations and most of all I have been greatly humbles by the brethren at the fellowship. The relationships of the saints there with their Lord are beautiful and humbling and I'm always being being challenged by this!

So right now this is where I am. A child of God wanting to be used by Him, for His glory, a vessel of honor fit for the Master's use.

Can I share with you a secret?...
I never intended on writing all this. In fact I was writing a post on something entirely different! But who knows, maybe this is written because it is meant for someone. Someone going through the same situation perhaps? God knows.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Divorcing Myself

All my life I've struggled with the temptation to repress my strengths. Growing up, I was singled out for being smart and talented. I always felt that I had tons of admirers, but nobody to really call my friend. I used to wonder, "If I didn't have the ability to do this or that, would people would still like me? Why can't people just like me for who I really am?"

Once I became a Christian, I tried to find ways to embrace my talents for God's glory. Sadly, I discovered I had a new predicament. Instead of being admired for my abilities, I was hated. Other women in the church were jealous that I was stealing their spotlight. I saw the problems that it was causing, and so I tried not to be too good at certain things. I would purposely sing out of tune. I pretended not to know the answers to questions when I really did. I stopped wearing makeup. I was afraid that if I showed people my good qualities, they would not only fail to see the real me, but they would hate me altogether!

My talents weren't my only problem. My personality came under fire a lot, too. I remember a time about ten years ago, someone told me, "The reason you have no friends is because you talk too much, and people find that to be really annoying. Try to be more quiet and people will like you more." I knew there was some truth to this. After all, the Bible says, "Seldom set foot in your neighbor’s house, lest he become weary of you and hate you" (Proverbs 25:17). I decided not to tell so many funny stories. People might find that annoying. Worse, they might think I was self-absorbed. It was probably best not to share so many of my joys with others, or to laugh too loudly about them when I did.

Striving toward these unrealistic self-improvements was a way of life for me, and it was exhausting. On one hand, some people would only like me for my positive traits. On the other hand, some people would hate me for having those very same characteristics. It seemed that the only logical solution and way of escape was to completely divorce myself from my good qualities. And that's exactly what I did, until about three weeks ago.

In spite of the fear that nobody would like the real me minus all the "frills," I was plagued over the knowledge that God had gifted me, and that I was wasting those gifts by hiding them from the world. I begged Him to show me how to manage this dilemma. He said, "My child, you ask why people can't like you for the real you. I tell you, those good qualities are the real you. If I didn't give you those qualities, you'd be someone else entirely."

God doesn't say silly things like, "Oh Jennifer, the only reason you worship Me is because I am all-powerful and sovereign. Why can't you just love Me for who I am?"It's true. Our strengths are part of who we are, and we cannot separate ourselves from them. God Himself is a unique being who possesses many wonderful attributes, and the Bible tells us that He cannot deny Himself (2 Timothy 2:13). If He were any less loving, merciful, powerful, or creative, He would cease to be God! God doesn't say silly things like, "Oh Jennifer, the only reason you worship Me is because I am all-powerful and sovereign. Why can't you just love Me for who I am?" How ridiculous! That is who He is! So it should come as no surprise that our good qualities are part of who we are as well. Should people admire us for some skill we may possess, we need not worry, "If I didn't have this ability, would they still like the real me?" The question is an impossibility. That skill is the real you. Trying to divorce ourselves from that skill would break up the complex combination of strengths that God has brought together in order to make each of us a unique creation.

And what about those people who may experience a little jealousy over our strengths from time to time? Does God allow that to bother Him? Of course not. Everywhere you go, there are people who utterly despise God because He is holy, righteous, and just. They do not like the fact that He is the ultimate authority. And so how do these people manage those aspects of God that they dislike? It's simple: they divorce Him from those attributes. They say things like, "MY God would never send anyone to hell." And they are right. Their God wouldn't send anyone to hell. But their God is not the God of the Bible!

As reformed Christians, we can get so caught up in our awareness of the sin of pride that we end up repenting of things that aren't even sin, for fear that we might become prideful. We put ourselves through a legalistic series of attempts to prevent any possible future occurrence of sin, and we do so in our own strength. Yet this is an exercise in futility because Christ has already taken care of that by dying on the cross. In the case of divorcing myself, I wanted to shut down in order to prevent people from getting jealous over my gifts, and to prevent myself from becoming too prideful about my gifts. So I went around hiding those parts of myself that I felt would cause trouble. I created a fake Jen, and I was essentially saying that the fake Jen I created was a vast improvement upon the real Jen, whom God created. Now THAT is pride!

Are there any aspects of yourself that you have you been trying to divorce? Is it your hearty laugh, your opinionated views, or the wisdom you have to offer? Have you been trying to squeeze your femininity into a one-size-fits-all container? Whose idea of biblical womanhood are you trying to imitate? If it's not sin, don't try to rid yourself of it. God has made you just the way you are for a reason, and there is nothing you can do to improve upon what He has done. So laugh, smile, speak your mind! It's not a sin to shine.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Reformed Jerks and Secular Heroines

One of the greatest things about reformed theology is that there is such a tremendous focus on God. Ironically, this is simultaneously one of the worst things about reformed theology. Let me clarify that - the theology is not really the problem. It's the people. People are and always have been the major reason why things get fouled up. We're sinners. We can't help it. And even in our attempts to glorify God to the absolute fullest, reformed folks can sometimes get carried away.

I came across a wonderful article about this very thing two years ago while I was struggling over this paradox. Specifically, if the Doctrines of Grace emphasize the importance of humility in our lives, as we are utterly helpless in our depraved estate, then why do we have a tendency to be so legalistic? It would seem that as we realize God's tremendous grace in our lives, that we would be more patient with those who do not understand or agree with reformed doctrine. But sadly, we are often not very patient with them at all.

In his article, "Are We Jerks?" Scott Clark helps to explain this phenomenon. Scott asks:
How can this happen? After all, of all folk shouldn’t Calvinists know God’s amazing grace? Sure they should. So why do they sometimes “cop an attitude?”

Our very own Latisha has shared some fantastic insights from Thabiti Anyabwile on the very same subject. In a series of posts entitled, "Calvinist Confessions: I am a Pharisee," Anyabwile writes:

There is this tendency to live in our heads. And when that meets with a theological tradition as rich and robust as the Reformed tradition, sparks fly–in our heads. Add to that a pinch of argumentative spirit and out comes the Pharisee.

But you know what’s lost? The spirit, or the Spirit. Sometimes both. The letter kills. That’s what happens with us Calvinist Pharisees. To read all the articles, visit Latisha's blog by clicking here.

I think one of the areas in which "Reformed Jerkism" has done a great deal of damage is in the manner by which women have come to view Biblical femininity. This results in one of two extremes. Some women will flat out reject God's design for modesty, holiness, and submission altogether. Others will embrace it to the point of erasing even the human aspects of femininity from their lives. It has been my experience that most reformed folks I've come in contact fall into the second category. They are often fearful of the natural traits that God has given women which make them unique. Physical beauty, artistic talent, leadership skills, friendliness and intelligence are not sins. Yet many times, women who possess these traits are often treated as though they are harlots.

Secular culture is often criticized as being ungodly, and this is often true, but not always. There are many times secular culture can be enjoyed as a means of celebrating our humanity. As we consider some of the "secular heroines" out there and examine their work, it is my hope that those of us who've been in bondage to legalism can regain our spirit -- the same spirit Thabiti Anyabwile claims many of us have lost. I'd encourage you to pray about what you may have repressed in your own life. Is it your spunk? Your smile? Your charming personality? God has not only brought me out of my shell these last few weeks, He's completely smashed that shell to smithereens! And I am praying He will do the same for you.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Sermon A Day....


I want to share something with you that has brought such growth and heightened my affections for Jesus over the years--sermons about Him! Faith comes by hearing. We hear when we read the Word and we certainly hear when we listen to God's Word preached by gifted men and women.

One of my favorites in heavy rotation is Arturo Arzurdia, founder, of Spirit Empowered Preaching. I'd like to put you all on to him. He has a robust sermon catalog. I'd like to suggest a few as must listens. If you have an ipod, then download and if you can, listen online while you work--which is what I do. CLICK HERE to scroll the catalog. Here are some of my favorites:

  • The Ruth Series (a must listen for single women, the insight's oh my--bangin!)
  • The Genesis Series (oh my!)
  • A Clarion Call To A Worldly Christianity
  • Successful or Faithful Shattering the Dichotomy

To whet your appetite, here are a couple of penetrating excerpts from the Ruth Series. These quotes are found at “The Proposal” message, expounding on chapter 3:1-18.

Bro. Arturo shares the following insight about Boaz’s disposition, Ruth 3:7:

...aren’t you glad to know, Beloved, that authentic spirituality is not defined
as a dour, somber, sullen, heavy disposition? Asceticism has no place in
the life of a person who is in covenant with the happy God. Sometimes, my
friends, the people in the Bible make us nervous and uncomfortable because they tend to defy the very ways we have sought to define holiness…

Has Bro. Arturo read the SHEology treatise(s) on modesty and all the error/imbalances that come with it? Ponder Bro. Arturo’s insights on Naomi’s instructions to Ruth in preparation for her providential meeting with Boaz:

…here is the first step in the plan—take a bath. After all we are
not hyper-Calvinist here, let’s not put God’s sovereignty to a foolish
test. You want to make a positive impression on a man and you smell badly?
Take a bath. (She’s been gleaning, by the way) Step two, put on some
perfume. Step three, put on your prettiest clothes—those sandals that
match it so perfectly. Now friends there is a sense in which I’m teasing
and a sense in which I’m dead earnest. It is true that Naomi’s goal is not
merely to make Ruth alluring but it most certainly includes this. Aren’t you
glad to know that spirituality is not an excuse for gaudiness and frumpiness….?

There are so many to choose from.....whatever suits your fancy simply scroll through and take your pick. A sermon a day keeps the enemies (of your soul) away :)

Happy Listening!