Saturday, March 20, 2010

Winter Jam 2010

I was in the middle of writing this post at work today and had to stop at the point of telling a story. Work was really busy today. Usually I have a lot of spare time. Today there was none. I had just enough time to begin this post. It's been a very busy week, and a busy weekend. The sun shined for most of it and spring is about to be here. I see bits of grass peaking up here and there. The daffodils are blooming! They are my absolute fav flower and always bring a smile to my face. I love how my God cares about the details. He could of just made this earth in black and white however He loves color. He loves to be creative. How amazing it is that the God who sits on high cares about even the smallest flower...sigh...I sure do love flowers:) Tonight it is supposed to rain. Not just rain but there are thunderstorms in the forecast:) I love thunderstorms just as much as I love flowers. The best is when the storms come at night. I very much enjoy falling asleep to the sound of rain outside my window. The bad part about the rain is that it gets my dog wet. He loves water just as much as I love flowers and thunderstorms. I do not like his love for water. When he gets most dogs...he stinks! Right now as I am typing he is giving me those poor puppy dogs eyes and pacing the room begging me to come play and pet him. He, however just spent the last few hours romping in the rain and is still wet. So for now I am going to keep typing... maybe when I get done he will be dry:)

Well enough about all that. I started writing earlier on my trip to winter jam last night. As usual my first intention was to just write about my experience but as I got writing something else came out. This time it is the topic of worship. I just have to give my own opinion on the subject. You don't have to agree with me... in fact I know quite of few people don't. My view comes from my experiences and encounters with God and yours come from your experiences and encounters with God. Thats ok... we can't agree on everything. If we did then Satan wouldn't be doing his job... right?

Well here I go...

I love my church but their worship doesn't really satisfy my need for worship. I LOVE to worship. I know that worship isn't just singing. I know that worship is something we do at all times. However, I see my relationship with Christ much like that of anyone in my life. Of course He is the most important relationship, the one I treasure most. He is the Lover of my soul and only He can satisfy my deepest longings and desires.

As in any relationship, you relate to each differently. My relationship with my friend Krista is going to be much different then her relationship with my friend Bekah. Krista is the same person, that doesn't change just because Bek and I see her differently. Bek and Kris relate to each other differently then Kris and I do. That doesn't make my relationship with her wrong and Bek's right, or vice versa. It is the same with Christ. The way He speaks and interacts with me might look different then that of His and Bek's relationship. Of course there are things that are the same and those are laid out specifically in Scripture. Bek and I and are both to worship and serve the Lord with all our heart, soul, and mind. However, the way I choose to do that might look different then Bek's way.

One of my favorite ways to worship God is by singing. Not quietly but at the top of my voice, hands raised and heart wide open. The louder the music the better. I love for it to be dark, it takes away any distractions and leaves me feeling alone with the Creator. I love singing in a big group. Passion conference is the ultimate worship experience, that and 86Hours summer camp of course. If I think about my relationship with Him like that of a married couple, after all I am His bride, then Passion is that week long anniversary trip where all I get to think about is Him. No work distractions, no drama, just Him and me for 4 days. I get to soak in as much as He will pour out and that I can handle. It's the best week of the year. I love to love Him, I love to soak in His Word, and I love to allow Him to consume my mind.

A good worship concert is like that once a month much needed date night. Everyday I get to talk to Him and discuss my day and other such things. But every once in awhile it is a good idea to set apart a specific time when it is just He and I for an extended period of time. An intimate time where I can really open up my heart to hear whatever it is that I might have been too busy to hear about amiss the busy week. I wish I did this more regularly. A concert isn't the only way I do this. Sometimes Strider and I go on a prayer walk or I take a long trail ride into the woods to enjoy His peace and admire His handiwork.

Well enough about how I worship and onto last night.... It was a much needed date. I went with one of the guys that comes to Sunday night dinner, he and his daughter and the 4 oldest Pavatt kids. I really loved that they got to come along. They are so dear to my heart and I love to spend any time I can with them. Especially a time to watch them experience God's presence. Newsong was the host of course and in the middle of the show they came out and did their part. The lead guy told a story one that I am going to retell here because I think that it teaches a valuable lesson.

A man was on his way home one weekend, he had stopped over night in a small town and decided to visit their church the next morning. He enjoyed worshipping with the small congregation and the message was very inspiring. The pastor was giving one his on fire for the Lord messages and really spoke to the man. As the offering plate was passed the man decided that he was going to show his support of the message by giving generously. As the plate got closer he realized that he had left all of his money back in his hotel room. When the plate got to him he took it, got up out of his seat and went to the isle. He set the plate down on the ground and stood in it. The pastor looked at him and asked why he was standing in the offering plate. The man told him that all he had to give was himself.

Isn't that all Christ wants? Sure He will take your money, in fact we are commanded to give our money. But when we get right down to it, all He really wants is us. How effective would the church be if everyone in church grasped this and was actually willing to give their life for Him. Something to think about isn't it.

Well...I think it's time to call it quits for the night. I was up way to late last night and up way to early this morning. Church tomorrow... I can't wait to see my Sunday school class. They are such a blessing to me and I love the opportunity that God has given me to teach them. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Lazy not humble

I'm not sure that there has ever been a time in my life when I have learned as much about who God is as I have been here lately. I am so humbled, to think that God finds me worthy enough to learn so much about who He is. I have experienced time in my life when my hunger for Him and His Word was non-existence and that time was a very miserable and wasteful period. Now my hunger is never satisfied. I pray that I stay in this place. For God never ceases to reveal Himself, it is I who stops looking. As long as I keep searching I will hear His voice. His voice is so clear when I am in His will. I find that it is when I step out of His will, that is to follow the plans that I have, when I think that His voice has gone still. That is not so not the case. De 4:29 says that if I seek Him with all my heart and soul then I shall find Him. He never goes away, never leaves me, and He is always speaking to me.

So as I continue on with Mere Christianity I find some things that I do not like, I didn't say disagree but dislike. There is a big difference. Ch 9 was a very convicting chapter for me. As I shared with Paula last night I think that it got to her too. I don't always like the conviction. This particular one I really disliked. The problem was that I agreed with Lewis and that means that something in my life now must change, for I can't ignore when the Spirit speaks to me. He won't put up with that. Sometimes I try to escape conviction by not reading my Bible and not praying. After all if I don't hear it then I don't have to do it right?? How dumb am I?? To think that I can fool the God of the universe. Ha, I'm not always very bright.

I think that is one of the points Lewis was making in the last chapter. I know the cost of following Christ... I desperately want to seek His face, and follow His will. But there is still a part of me that wants what I want. My flesh never gives up.. it constantly seeks to destroy me. Thankfully God is constantly there to.. and He will put my life back on track. It might hurt and it might take awhile, but it will happen. God takes our choice to follow Him seriously and when He says that He will make us holy, He will. We are commanded to be perfect. That is what Christ promises to do... make us perfect. The moment we choose to follow Him is the moment we agree to let Him make us perfect. Lewis puts it this way:

Make no mistake, He says, if you let me, I will make you perfect. The moment you put yourself in My hands, that is what you are in for. Nothing less, or other, than that. You have free will, and if you choose, you can push Me away. But if you do not push Me away, understand that I am going to see this job through. Whatever suffering it may cost you in your earthly life, whatever inconceivable purification it may cost you after death, whatever it costs Me, I will never rest, nor let you rest, until you are literally perfect - until my Father can say without reservation that He is well pleased with you, as He said He was well pleased with me. This I can do and will do. But I will not do anything less.

He wants us to be perfect.. that is His desire. However He is aware of our humanity and will always pick us up when we fall. He knows that we cannot be perfect relying on our own efforts. We need Him, we must realize that. There is nothing that can keep us from achieving perfection except for our self. Only I can push Him away, you can't push Him out of my life. So its up to me to let Him in, it is my choice to allow Him to guide my life. The plans He has for me are beyond what I can imagine.

That's the lesson I am currently learning. I often sell my self short. Right now I have a job interview set up for a job that I am in awe of even being considered for. So many people have corrected me and told me that I am crazy to think that low of myself. I thought it was humility to think that I was unworthy of such a calling. However Lewis says that is not what it is. When I as a child of Christ, who can do the impossible, think that I am unable to do something I am actually saying that the One who lives in me is unable to do something. You see as I wrote about in my last post, I am no longer myself. That person, those abilities, all those dreams and desires that used to make up who I am are dead. They had to die in order to let Christ in. I am no longer who I thought I was. That person is gone and in its place is the glorious, righteous, almighty God of the Universe. Isn't that AMAZING!!! He lives inside of me. He uses me, a sinful, wretched, unclean person to carry out His plan, His glory!! Can you wrap your mind around that?? I can't. I wish I could, although it most likely be the death of me if I did. This is what Lewis says:

We may be content to remain 'ordinary people': but He is determined to carry out quite a different plan. To shrink back from that plan is not humility: it is laziness and cowardice. To submit to it not conceit or megalomania; it is obedience.

So according to Lewis I am lazy and a coward. Ouch!!! By not allowing myself to be who God wants me to be is to limit Him. I am telling Him no. It is in no way humility. I am telling God, 'no thanks, I like it right here where I am.' I have no idea of the greatness that He has in store for me. What I think looks like a palace is really just a cottage compared to what He has in store for me. I don't need to develop confidence in myself, rather I need to remember who it is that lives in me. My confidence should always be in Him and through Him there is nothing that I am not capable of doing.

On another note... Just saw this video trailer for John Piper's newest book A Sweet and Bitter Providence. It looks amazing.... can't wait to get it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Myself must die

I found a new band that I really like. One of their songs very clearly depicts the struggle of our flesh. This is the hardest part about following Christ, or at least it is in my own life. My flesh is oh so strong and at times I feel like it wins most of the time. I know that in the end my spirit will win the war as Christ will finally crush the serpants head once and for all. But for now I feel as if my flesh is winning every battle. It is very depressing feeling and extremely exhausting. In book 4 chapter 8 of Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis explains this battle. I am going to do my very best to summarize what this great man had to say about it all. When we come to Christ we discover that we have two sides to our self, the natural sinful self who looks out for only itself and now the spirit side that longs to obey and serve Christ. These two are at war and will be at war till you leave this earth and go to live with our Father. Lewis makes a statement that is very blunt. I think that if we all look closely at our own life we will see that this describes us all. "But we are hoping all the time that when all the demands have been met, the poor natural self will still have some chance, and some time, to get on with its own life and do what it likes." When Christ says to surrender all to His throne, that He demands all of our life it may at first glance seem easy. As if it is a one time act. As if after we complete the transaction we can go back to the way we were living. There is nothing simple about Christianity. It is easier but it is also harder.

"The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says 'Give me All. I don't want so much of your time and so much of your money and so much your work: I want you. I have not come to torment your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I don't want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, , I want to have the whole tree down. I don't want to drill a tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it removed. Hand over the natural self, all the desires which you think are inoccent as well as the ones you think wicked - the whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you myself: my own shall become yours.'"

It is not an easy thing to do... its hard, and painful. Lewis agrees that it is hard but he says that what we are doing is actually harder. "For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call 'ourselves,' to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be 'good.'''

Thats what I am battling right now... I really do want to follow God with my heart, soul, and mind. The problem is there is still apart of that wants my plans to work out. I get very discouraged at times because I know that my flesh is strong.. however the God I serve is stronger! I know that if I just keep doing the next right thing, (thanks Kris) that my flesh will evenutally die. I will be victorious, I will win because My God wins this war. I must cease to be myself, stop caring about who I am and start caring about who He is.

Take a look at this video I love the dipiction of the fight between our flesh and our spirit. Evnutally the flesh will die... it will in a sense be the death of me. Thankfully through Jesus my spirit will live with Him forever.

Quotes from Church fathers

I want to continue on with what the subject of my last post, but I came across some interesting quotes in one of my textbooks today. I am taking a church history class that I LOVE!! I am learning all kinds of crazy good stuff about the history of my faith. This week I am reading about the early bishops. Two in particular have stuck out to me, the first is Ambrose of Milan. He was made bishop in 373 a time when the Arians and the orthodox were basically at war with one another. One of the issues was how to use the gold in the church. Ambrose wanted to melt it down and give it to the refugees from a nearby region overrun by the Goths. The Arians saw this as sacrilege. Ambrose responded: "It is better to preserve for the Lord souls rather than gold. He who sent the apostles without gold also gathered the churches without gold. The church has gold, not to store it up, but to give it up, to use it for those who are in need... It is better to keep the living vessels, than the golden ones."

A hundred years later after the death of Ambrose John of Constantinople came into the picture. He was known as John Chrysostom "the golden-mouthed." He preached the same message that Ambrose did. "The gold bit on your horse, the gold circlet on the wrist of your slave, the gilding on your shoes, mean that you are robbing the orphan and starving the widow. When you have passed away, each passer-by who looks upon your great mansion will say, 'How many tears did it take to build that mansion; how many orphans were stripped; how many widows wronged; how many laborers deprived of their honest wages?' Even death itself will not deliver you from your accusers."

Powerful statements made by both of these men. I can't imagine the feedback they got in their days. Both of theses men ended up in exile for these words and others like it. I imagine the same would happen if they were alive today.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Freedom is not the easy road

Over the past few months I have ready quite a few books that have really got my brain thinking about how I view and interact with the God of the universe. I am afraid that the American church tends to paint Christianity as just any other religion, basically just a set rules to follow. Americans want a simple religion one that they can make a check list for and be done with it. In his book Mere Christianity author C.S. Lewis tells us that in reality there is no such thing as a simple religion. "After all real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not." He goes on to say that realty is also some things we could not of guessed. That is one of the reasons Lewis himself believes in Christianity, it is a religion that cannot be guessed. The problem that religion seeks to answer is not simple, so the answer is not going to be simple either. The one thing that Christianity offers that no other religion can offer is a personal relationship with the Creator. In fact as Lewis points out we were designed to run on Him. "He Himself is the fuel our spirits were designed to burn, or the food our spirits were designed to feed on. There is no other." The problem with making a checklist is that we think that if we do xyz then God will give us abc and we will be happy. This is not the case. Our happiness is Him. There is no such thing as happiness apart from Him. There is only one way out for a fallen, imperfect man, that is to surrender. This means that you must be willing to admit you are wrong (lay down your pride), say your sorry, and then be willing to start life over again. Lewis puts it like this:

"It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means killing part of yourself, undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here comes the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person - and he would not need it."

Jesus is that perfect person and He underwent a terrible death so that He could take our punishment. He did this because He loves us. So why is it that when we Christians are constantly looking for the easy way out? Jesus didn't take the easy way out... and thankfully He didn't, it would have put all of us in hell.

I ran across this statement in Philip Yancy's book Whats so Amazing About Grace?, " If we truly grasped the wonder's of God's love for us, the devious question that prompted Romans 6&7 - What can I get away with? - would never occur to us. We would spend our days trying to fathom, not exploit, God's grace." It is this question of what can I get away with that leads us to establish certain "rules of Christianity". We call it legalism. Most people hate this word and get very defense when people talk about it. There is always a way that we can justify our "rules" in order to make them not seem legalistic. However that is just what they are. We must get away from this idea that if a person breaks "the rules" then he must not really love Jesus. That is absurd. In fact it is this very act of judging others by our standards that exploits the grace of God. On the other hand those who try to stay far away from legalism think that their road is easier. After all isn't freedom always easier? Yancy says no. "At first glance legalism seems hard, but actually freedom in Christ is the harder way. It is relatively easy not to murder, but hard to reach out in love; easy to avoid a neighbor's bed, hard to keep a marriage alive; easy to pay taxes, hard to serve the poor. When living in freedom, I must remain open to the Spirit for guidance. I am more aware of what I have neglected than what I have achieved. I cannot hide behind a mask of behavior, like the hypocrite, nor can I hide behind facile comparisons with other Christians."
If Christianity was supposed to be an easy, simple to follow religion then the Bible would be shorter. To be a Christian is simple: believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved. The act of being a Christian: loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind is not so simple.
My prayer is that I myself stop trying to find the simple way to please my Savior. Getting up everyday and completing a checklist of doing good acts will not please Him. He wants my heart, a good and joyful attitude at all times. This seems impossible however I serve a mighty God. One who can do all things, even the things that seem impossible. He promises to give me the strength to do everything that pleases Him. The key is to look to Him for the strength. I cannot get through this life on my own. Oh how I wish I could learn that lesson and never try out branch out on my own. Thankfully He is also a forgiving and gracious God who always takes me back.