Category Archives: christian living

Putting Down the Sign

imagesAnyone who knows me will tell you that I love Twitter. There’s a voyeuristic quality about it that I just can’t resist. While I love reading the short descriptions about what’s going on in people’s lives I rarely pay attention to the ones that have photo links attached for no other reason than the fact that they are mostly pictures of people’s food (sorry, but I don’t care about your half eaten burrito or stewed tomatoes). 

 

Today was an exception to that rule. I kept getting tweets (messages for you who are unfamiliar) from XXXChurch (http://xxxchurch.com/) that had updates and photos from their booth at the Erotica LA convention. They were fantastic pictures of salt and light people laughing, passing out bibles, sharing the gospel. My personal favorite? Dining with Ron Jeremy and company. This is what missions is all about. I was thinking about this as I sat down to read for tonight’s post. Coincidentally, tonight I’m on Luke 18 and 19.

 

Luke 18:9-12 (from The Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector) reads: 9”Some were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: 10”Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and one a tax collector. 11The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people – robbers, evil doers, adulterers – or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

 

Of all the photos that were sent the most striking was a photo of a man outside, standing by himself (not unlike the Pharisee), carrying a sign that read ‘Porn Damns! Jesus Saves!’ Even if the message was right on, the method of delivery sucked. It’s easy to stand outside, alone and unengaged, taking pride in the self-righteous assumption that I am not like those other people. It’s much harder, and undeniably more effective, to humbly serve in the dark places reaching out to touch those who are lost. I don’t know how many people the lone sin-sign guy reached today but I do know that XXXChurch passed out a few thousand bibles. 

 

Now for some practical, everyday application. The odds of my having an opportunity to invite a porn star to dinner tomorrow are very slim. But I do have an opportunity to connect with those who are lost. Tomorrow is Sunday. I pray that as I enter the temple to  pray I do not point to the guy next to me (v.11) and call out his or her sin (something that I’ll admit I am often tempted to do). Lord knows I have enough of my own. 

 

And I pray that the Church would stop carrying the sin sign too. It happens. I’ve experienced it. I long for the day when we, the Church, truly realize that we are also the robbers, evil doers, and adulterers not just the other guys. I pray that we will put down our sin-signs and confident self-righteousness and embrace those who, despite their actions, are at their core just like us.

 

So, back to X3 Church. On their web site the volunteer page says, “Don’t blame the dark for being dark, blame the light for not shining in the dark.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

 

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 20 and 21.

 

Oh, and by the way, in case you were wondering here’s what I had for dinner. See how ridiculous it is? 


4918_97212852186_538237186_2469278_1097501_s


5 Comments

Filed under Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, restoration, Uncategorized

His Kingdom Come

the_candles

As Jesse and I discussed my readings tonight he started saying all kinds of things that moved me deep inside. I asked if he’d write them for you and he graciously agreed. I’m thrilled that he shared. 

I recently finished reading Death by Church by Mike Erre. This book runs a little deeper than I usually go in non-academic reading; for example, he uses the word “eschatological” in a sentence… a lot. But this book brings up an issue that merits mention here, being related to a verse in this section of Luke. Death by Church is about the kingdom of God – recognizing the fact that the Kingdom is already here among us, and exploring how the church should operate in the presense of that fact. I don’t want to get too deeply into the book because there’s a lot there, I’m not sure I fully grasp all of it, and it’s not all necessarily relevant to this passage or this forum. But one of the things I found eye-opening was something I guess I had never really grasped in my heart, or really fully in my head either. It’s that when Jesus said “the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand,” he didn’t mean, “the kingdom is coming soon,” he meant, “the kingdom is nearby” or “the kingdom is within reach.” It’s a spatial term, not a temporal one. And that’s what we see in Luke 17:20-21: “The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst.” The kingdom is already here. 

 

Now all you tried and true believers probably knew this already, but honestly, in my heart of hearts, it was news to me. Deep inside, I really looked at the kingdom as something coming in the future that I had a seat reserved in — if I didn’t somehow blow it — and in the meantime I had to shuffle along through the trials of this vale of tears as best I could, keeping myself as untrammeled and holy as possible along the way. Erre convincingly explains the gospel as not just salvation in the hereafter but transference here and now from the kingdom of this world (ruled by you-know-who) to the kingdom of God. In practical terms, this means that I honestly have the power in Christ right here and now to do the impossible by following Him in His walk. At the time I read this I had put myself through a devastating bout with addiction… AGAIN… and was feeling horribly crushed and defeated by sin, so having this light sort of turned on inside was a tremendous encouragement and really helped pull me back up on my feet. 

 

The implication of the kingdom being in our midst is not just personal though, it’s also communal, and I feel that’s what God is leading me towards through things that are going on in my life right now. If the kingdom is really here, and we are it, then we need to have the doors open and the lights on. I mentioned in my earlier post that I’m a person who normally would not mix – that’s not the kind of person God is looking for in the kingdom. He’s calling us to do something that runs against the grain – to go out and love the unlovable sinners of this world. And I have to confess that I’m convicted by that calling as well. In my own attempts at recovery I’ve found it too easy to reach a point of  “I got mine, forget about you!” That simply doesn’t work, as we see in verse 33: “Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.” I’m often troubled by my memories of a dear friend in the program who passed away a couple years ago. Steve was a great friend, but he just couldn’t stay sober as long as I could. And for that reason I allowed a lot of distance to creep into our relationship during his last few months. It wasn’t easy to field his drunk, sometimes hostile phone calls. And, not surprisingly, other people encouraged me to write him off. “He’ll drag you down with him,” they warned me. Or they’d tell me I’d grown beyond him, and that he just would never stay sober. For the record, I’ve relapsed four times since Steve’s funeral, so who’s casting the first stone there? Maybe if I’d loved him a little more, I could’ve helped – and if it didn’t help him, maybe it would’ve helped me. 

 

The kingdom needs to be seen in the way we do church, too. I don’t blame anyone but myself for my choices, but it didn’t help me any that the well-heeled and goofy stoners at my high school offered me more social acceptance than many of the kids at my church youth group. And again, I don’t blame those kids – they were just being teenagers. But the setup that was there was one that let teenagers do what teenagers naturally do, instead of what the kingdom of God does. And I have to cop to being a part of many similar setups in many similar church meetings along the way. Shame on all of us for participating in such shams! 

 

About two hours ago Nicole asked me if I had any thoughts on Luke 16 and 17, and I told her I had none. These are my non-thoughts. I hope they make sense to some of you. 

 

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 18 and 19


6 Comments

Filed under AA, Addiction, Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Recovery, Uncategorized

Service, Humility, and My Best Shoes

3212211560_420a6a1710

My first counseling job after graduation was at a voluntary residential substance abuse treatment program/half way house. And by volunteer I mean volunteer to go to treatment or get sentenced to jail. I’ll never forget my first day. I wore tan Coach kitten heels and Seven jeans while I transported clients from the County Jail and watched a couple dozen women pee in a plastic cup. Needless to say I was over dressed (but the kitten heels, so cute). That was me. 

 

I was thinking about the old versus the somewhat improved me, as I read through Luke 14:7-11. Verse 8 says, “ When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited.” When I first started counseling in my Coach heels I was taking the seat of honor. Not only had I gone to school to get the degree I had also lived through addiction and therefore thought I had all the knowledge and put myself in a position to dispense it. As I matured in my role I realized that I didn’t deserve the seat of honor and that I was NOT the most distinguished guest. 

 

My second counseling job was working with families who had a child with a severe mental health diagnosis. This was a program through community mental health so many of our families were disadvantaged and had been beaten up by the system. Ours was an in-home program meaning we went into the clients house and did our sessions in their own environment. Sometimes that environment was a suburban home, other times it was a mobile home, occasionally it was a jail or psychiatric facility, and sometimes it was a motel room. I loved that job. 

 

It was in those motel rooms, apartments, and psych wards that I truly experienced verse 11 for the first time in my life, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” I never wore the Coach heels at this job and I never pretended that my education or my perceived status entitled me to a place of honor. I had learned from my Coach heel days that I didn’t know the first thing about other peoples lives or experiences. Instead of coming in as the “expert” I made an effort to go in as a servant. In the few years that I worked in that program I learned more about life, resilience, hope, faith, determination, and compassion than I could ever have learned in a college text book. I was humbled by the privilege to go into someone’s home, whatever kind of home that may be, each week and try to figure out the tough stuff of life with them. And I has honored and exalted for the opportunity to intimately know some of the most amazing people I will ever meet in my life. 

 

By the way, while I think I am somewhat reformed I still wear Coach heels (I love them and am very short so cut a girl a break). 

 

What have you learned through humble service? What comments do you have on Luke 14 or 15?

 

Tomorrow I will start reading Luke 16 and 17


5 Comments

Filed under Addiction, Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, faith, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Uncategorized

Going Out Boldly

trustNicole has graciously allowed me to guest write for her today. I was glad to do it because I was struck by a a couple of passages in Luke 10-12 which dovetailed with a message we just watched online from Francis Chan, whose book “Crazy Love” and whose messages have deeply challenged me. 

 

The recurring message I see in this part of Luke’s gospel is of trust in God. It starts with the sending out of the seventy-two, who “carry no money belt, no bag, no shoes; and greet no one on the way” (10:4). Can you imagine? Not even a change of clothes. If I walk out the front door of my house without my wallet, I feel like I’ve walked out naked, whether there’s money in there or not. And my keys are ALWAYS in my left front pants pocket. If they’re not there, something’s wrong and I drop everything until I find them. Seriously. Could I even walk out of the house without my keys for Jesus? Yet these men left everything and took nothing with them, trusting God completely for everything they would need. 

 

Sometimes I wonder if I truly trust in God. I trust in God to produce the outcomes I desire, sure. That’s great, when he does. What about when he doesn’t? Do I hedge my bets? I sometimes feel like I live as though God weren’t really sovereign, which of course he is – and I’m not just talking about sin, I’m talking about faith. Am I trusting my Creator, or a direct deposit payroll? My Maker, or a socioeconomic system that’s placed me in a position of comfort relative to most of the world? For me, one of the hidden blessings of hard economic times can be an invigorated faith. The AA Big Book puts it this way: “freedom from fear was more important than freedom from want.” Jesus has shown me this many times, but sometimes I still want to cling to the false security of mammon. 

 

Francis Chan was talking tonight about boldness, which I think is a part of that trust in God. Another quote from the AA Big Book: “We are people who normally would not mix.” That statement describes me perfectly! I am a person who normally would not mix.   With ANYONE. I have so many fear-of-rejection and fear-of-abandonment issues that I have spent most of my life emotionally curled up in a little ball keeping everyone at a distance. And in the past couple of weeks God has been pushing me into relationships with people. Just today, I finally learned the name of my next door neighbor whom I’ve lived by for, um, three years now. Yesterday my son dragged me down the block to meet some other neighbors because the guy was fixing something on his (my son’s) bike. And after all, how can I be a witness for Christ to anyone (or for that matter have any purpose on the earth) and not be bold about reaching out to other people. In many ways lately, I’ve felt God challenging me to crawl out from under my rock — even if the sunlight turns me to dust. 

 

Of course, as Nicole (who is now apparently my editor) has pointed out, all of this isn’t about me. I’d like to think that it is, but it isn’t. In Luke 10:1 we see that he “sent them in pairs ahead of Him to every city and place where He Himself was going to come.” They went out to stay in the homes of those they were ministering to, building relationships with them (vv. 7-9) until He Himself came behind them. And verse 17 tells us the result: they “returned with joy.” They went out boldly, and He didn’t fail them. That’s an inspiration. 

 

Jesse, thanks for writing today’s post. Next I will be reading Luke 13 and 14.

6 Comments

Filed under AA, Addiction, Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, faith, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Recovery, Uncategorized, worship

Learning True Mercy

ItHappens

As I read through Luke 6 and 7 I knew immediately that I wanted to write about Luke 6:36. That verse jumped off the page as if it was written in neon lights. It reads: “Be merciful just as your father is merciful.” I have struggled with this verse for two days now and have not moved past it, a clear indication that mercy is something I have an issue with and just hadn’t realized it. As I’ve struggled with this here are the two things that I’ve learned: I’m not as merciful as I think I am and I not sure that I really understand the true meaning biblical mercy.  

I used to go to a church that sort of referred members to service groups based on spiritual gifting. This isn’t necessarily a bad concept, people should serve where they are gifted and/or talented. Anyway, one of those groups was the Mercy committee. Any “acts of mercy” that needed to be performed fell in their laps. Loved it! After all, it was very convenient. I never had to do anything. In all my years there I never had to get my hands dirty in service. What I did develop was a very bad habit that I am just now realizing. I have equated mercy with giving money. Had you asked me 48 hours ago if I exercise the gift of mercy I would have emphatically said “yes, of course!” I sponsor a World Vision child, pack multiple Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes, and give to charities I love. That’s mercy, right? Hosea 6:6 has really challenged this belief, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God not burnt offerings”. I have been giving God sacrifices (money) and calling it mercy. This is certainly not being merciful as my Father is merciful. Not even close.

So what is His mercy and how do I do it? In his book ‘Relearning Jesus’, Matthew Paul Turner* has a great chapter on mercy. He says Jesus’ type of mercy, is “alarming and peculiar. It gives and gives and gives with out expecting anything from me in return. The mercy of Jesus catches me off guard at times. And I believe it’s the kind of mercy that’s most effective in this world – the kind that leaves me standing back saying what just happened.” (p.94). I love that explanation. It illustrates how amazing a merciful Jesus really is and it makes me realize how far I have to go. 

I haven’t fully unpacked this topic in my head yet but in terms of application here’s one thing I can say for sure; I need to be less selective with the mercy that I give. I recently had an email conversation with Tal,** who I referenced in a previous post. He and I were discussing our frustration with people who have a manufactured point scale for sin. All sin is equal, none more or worse than the other. This has been a huge issue for me as I often complain that christians miss the mark by treating certain things as ‘big’ sins. Drives me crazy. Reflecting on Luke 6:36, I think I do the same thing with mercy. I have a tendency to give mercy and forgiveness when it is easy for me. When I don’t have to go to far out on a moral limb. And, worst of all, when I decide it’s justified. I pray that I will learn to grow in the understanding of and ability to freely show mercy, mercy like the kind the Father has shown me. 

I hope you comment on mercy and what it means to you. I have a lot to learn from your thoughts.

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 7 and 8

Here are two links for guys I’m learning to know and hope I can someday call friends:

* ‘Relearning Jesus: How Reading the Beatitudes One More Time Changed My Life” is a great book. I highly recommend it. Matthew’s currently offering this book for free, for a limited time, if you purchase his other book ‘Churched’ (hysterical!) through his site. http://jesusneedsnewpr.blogspot.com/

** One more shout out for Tal. He’s a cool (and merciful) guy with an inspiring story and great Sirius show that will challenge you. http://www.talprincelive.com/templates/System/default.asp?id=41919

14 Comments

Filed under Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, faith, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Prayer, Uncategorized, worship

Carrying Each Others Mats

images We have lived with the pain of addiction in our household for many years. The process of recovery has been life giving and spiritually defining for both my husband and I. However, the road of recovery has been a long, narrow, rocky pathway full of peeks, valleys and sharp turns. I’ve learned that at it’s root addiction, any addiction, is an adulterous relationship with self desire. And that selfishness is a jealous, stubborn lover. While actively engaged in this relationship you lose all control over your body and your senses. This is what I was thinking about when I was reading about Jesus healing the paralytic, a man who has lost all control over his body. 

17One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. 18Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus” Luke 5:17-19

 

In this passage the paralyzed man, the man who had lost total control of himself, clearly needs the healing power of Jesus. Despite any desire he may have to seek recovery from his affliction and forgiveness for his sin (v.20) he has become a prisoner to his body, locked in by his disease, unable to move past himself to the place of healing. I know this feeling, we have been there. 

 

Here’s the cool part. Jesus gives us the perfect illustration of the recovery process as he designed it. “Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus”. In all of our experience with addiction recovery the one thing that stands out over and over, in almost every addicts story is the thought that recovery is a puzzle to be solved alone. But Jesus shows us that healing comes when we share our burden with others and they draw along side us, leading us on the path to healing when we don’t have the ability to get there ourselves. I especially love the persistence and tenacity that these guys show in verse 19. Even though they are met by hurdles (it’s too crowded, I relapse, this guy is really heavy too carry, I relapse) they don’t give up until they are in the presence of the Lord. It is impossible to experience recovery alone.

 

Unfortunately, the shame of addiction locks people out. It actually repels help from the outside. While addiction is a lonely condition, recovery from addiction only happens within the context of community. It only happens when you are honest with others about the reality of your condition (you are paralyzed by the grip of addiction) and are ready to allow some really good guys in. Guys, or girls, who are strong enough in character to pick you up and not let go until you are in the presence of hope. 

 

If you have a story about addiction or the recovery process please feel free to share it along with any comments about Luke Chapter 5. Sharing our story is the first step in picking up the mat.

 

Tomorrow I’ll be reading Luke 6 and 7


Looking for a good group of folks to help carry your mat? Try these links:

 

Alcoholics Anonymous: http://www.aa.org/?Media=PlayFlash

Narcotics Anonymous: http://www.na.org/

Celebrate Recovery: http://www.celebraterecovery.com/

Mark Driscoll’s free e-book on pornography and masturbation http://relit.org/porn_again_christian/

Every Man’s Battle: http://www.everymansbattle.com/

In the Detroit area The Woods addiction support group: http://www.wwnazarene.org/ministries/groups/support.php#addiction

 



3 Comments

Filed under Addiction, Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, faith, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Prayer, Recovery, restoration, worship

Microwaves, Slot Machines, and Prayer

microwave-oven-old-school1 A large part of the message at my church this Sunday was on instant miracles in an instant culture. Pastor Gocha* used the illustrative concept of the microwave and the crock pot and applied it to prayer life. The thought was that we want instant answers to prayer (and might I add affirmative answers to prayer) and we expect God to respond like a microwave-God. Petition, Zap, Blessing. I think he’s right. At least for me he’s right. It is difficult to wait for the slow simmer of a crock pot when I am in the middle of life. I replayed this in my head today as I read through Luke 4-5. 

In Luke 5:1-11 Jesus is speaking to the crowd and asks Simon to take him away from shore so he could teach from the boat. After he has completed his teaching he asks Simon to drop his nets into the deep water for a catch. Simon replies, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything [In my head that reads: Really God, you want me to do that again? I’ve tried that a million times and it hasn’t worked]. But because you say so, I will let down the nets” (v. 5). I love the obedience of this verse. Even though I’ve ‘been there, done that’ I will follow your command. I’ll confess that some of my prayers, especially those of the microwave variety, are: “God why do I have to keep doing this over and over. Do it my way. Now. Because I say so.” Sad isn’t it?

 

Here’s what really made me pause. When Simon obeys Jesus he is blessed beyond his imagination. Verses 6 and 7 read, “When they had done so, they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break. So they signaled their partners in another boat to come and help them, and they came and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.” Amazing! Belief, obedience, blessing: a very un-microwaved approach.

1385slot_machine

 

I strive for that level of belief and obedience in my walk. I also strive to receive a blessing the way Simon demonstrated in verse 8: “When SImon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” What a humbling response. So, here’s confession number two: If my approach to prayer sometimes resembles a microwave, my response to an answered prayer often resembles a slot machine. I pray (Come on lucky sevens!) and sometimes I hit the jackpot. Response: “Yee-ha, Jackpot!” Insert next request and pull the lever again. 

 

I pray for the humility to fall on my knees in desperation and longing whenever I approach Him in prayer, knowing that I may not get the response I want in my time. And that’s ok. I also pray that I will develop the level of spiritual humility to fall on my knees when prayers are answered, with total gratitude for my undeserved gifts.

 

*Looking for some aspiring crock pots to worship with in the Detroit area or would you like to hear a podcast of this message? Check out The Woods at http://www.nazarene.org/

 

Tomorrow I should be reading Luke 6 and 7 but I really want to comment on Luke 5:17-26. So, I guess this is now a 41 Day study :)


P.S. This has nothing to do with anything but I had to share. When I did a Google image search for a picture of a slot machine it returned this: The Jack Potty (actual name!) available at many fine retailers including Walmart and Sears (no, this is not a joke). This is wrong on so many levels I had to share it! Discuss…Jack_Potty 

 

 

5 Comments

Filed under Bible, blog, born again, christian living, christianity, church, Evangelical, faith, God, inspiration, Jesus, Luke, Prayer, Uncategorized, worship