Sunday, November 27, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving,  A Time for Giving ...

T- taking time for turkey, tempting treats and trimmings around the table with teens, tots and old-timers
H-hilarious happiness while detecting deceptive definitions during a Dictionary game
A-awestruck awareness of  our amazing glorious God who gives these gifts to
K-kute grandKids kreating khaos, kalling or krafting or kooking with kousins
S-super sweetness to savor and share with smiles

Three pounds of butter later and after numerous ounces of coffee consumed , the weekend comes to an end with my body in need of sleep and my laundry room full of dirty sheets.  I'm thankful for the family and friends who share my life and all the blessings we embrace everyday.

I offer you praise and gratitude, Father for every good and perfect gift.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Come Away, My Beloved!

A master-piece photograph from my son-in-law!  My daughter is in the foreground with Ian and Dominic, my grandsons watching the photo- shooting action.  The title sets the MOOD. 

Moms need a break from the action.
A time to pull aside and drink deeply.
A time to inhale stability and exhale stress.

Coffee breaks are refreshing~caffeine kicks in to energize~ morning head- fog clears~ flavor soothes a soul-longing~sharing the moment with a friend deepens the delight~sipping prolongs the pleasure! What are you waiting for~ GO, make a cup!

How realistic is the prospect that my daughter can really pull this off, dress clothes and all? If she could escape for even a minute, Dominic cries for her in the background and commitments call.

Yet, so real is our Constant Companion, Jesus Christ.  He is

refreshing our thoughts~Philippians 4:8
energizing our strength~Isaiah 40:31
clarifying our confusion~Philippians 3:15
soothing our longings for goodness~Psalm 34:8
delighting us through words with friends~Proverbs 27:9
lingering in us with sweetness~Psalm 119:103

Need a moment of escape, a quiet place to refocus, a back to lay your burden on, or a word you desperately need to whisper to someone who hears? He's always available for that quick break away, even if you can't stop the action around you.

My beloved spake, and said unto me, Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. 

Especially during this holiday season, may you find those much-needed-breaks, my friend.

Thanksgiving be to God for you and for Spiritual Sundays!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Leadership Follow-up

God is so good! I'm still searching for more of his heart in leadership issues, (see the previous post)  but I am thankful for a few scriptures he brought to mind as I was in prayer this week.

I Peter 4:8
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.

Father, teach us what it means to love like this.
The kind of love that  is patient and  kind.
Does not envy, does not boast,  is not proud.
Does not dishonor others,  is not self-seeking,  is not easily angered,  keeps no record of wrongs.
The kind of Love that does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
Love that always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.(I Cor. 13:4-7)

I John 1:7
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Father, I know that in your Light we see Light. Help us to live there, to camp there. Your light keeps the darkness away. The dark of criticism, slander, unforgiveness, pride and self ambition. We need Fellowship with you but also with one another. Thank you, Jesus for making it possible through your death and resurrection.

Scripture from the New International Version

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Leadership God's Way

Leadership in the local church has been a theme in my life lately, and I'm on a quest to understand better how God intended it to work. Our pastor began a sermon series last Sunday on how he believes Scriptural leadership is ordained by God and what it should look like.  This Sunday an overseer of our church was visiting and also spoke on this subject. 

God has called our church to focus on the harvest and we've recently changed our name to reflect this call and are close to starting to build a new addition onto our building.  Whether the enemy is working extra hard right now to thwart that call, or God is highlighting a pattern of weakness in how we handle offences so he can change us, or both, we have experienced a number of people leaving because of offences against the leadership. 

There is no question church leadership is needed. The overseer gave an example of watching a flock of sheep get frightend and start stampeding. Whichever sheep happened to be in front and what ever direction he was headed the rest followed.  If another sheep gained the lead position and jagged a different way the whole herd changed course and followed the new leader.  From a distance it was quite humorous to observe their zigzaggedy flight.

It is no compliment to us to be compared to sheep. But God knows how needy and vulnerable we are and he created leadership to direct, nuture and care for us. Leaders have an awesome responsibility before God and will someday stand and give an account to him for how they shepherded the sheep under their care.  But we too, as followers have a responsibility to honor, trust and respect those caring for us.  Will we allow someone's accusation against leadership to raise suspicions in us, or is our first response to give the benefit of the doubt to the leaders?  When there are wrong things done in leadership God has graciously provided a way to work things out (Matt. 18) and a proper method to follow. It's not a blind trust, but neither is the church a place for everyone to do as he pleases and according to what seems right in his own eyes.

While there is less respect for authority in the world today and popular thought says individual rights should be demanded and accessed at all costs, the church can show a different form of response to government. I haven't always gotten this right and my attitudes have not always lined up with God's desires in this area.  I'm asking him to help me learn his ways and to walk in obedience, and I'm asking him to keep helping my local church to get this right.

I'm thankful that God has established the church to be his vehicle for bringing his kingdom here to earth. He called some to be leaders, and gave them as gifts to his people. They prepare us for service, build us up, help us become mature, and teach us the truth so we aren't tossed around by false teaching and deceit.  The ultimate goal is  for all of us to grow up into Christ who is the head, our Lord.  (Eph. 4:11-15) I'm thankful I have Godly leaders in my life, who love the church and are men of integrity and honor.

What about you?  Are you experiencing healthy church leadership and healthy sheep response?  Or what has God taught you in this area that you can share with me?

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In the book, The Grace of God, by Andy Stanley, God's grace is portrayed in story form fashion and Andy creates a fresh angle on a popular subject. To those who find the Old Testament God lacking in grace, Andy argues that the divine intent from the beginning was to show mankind huge grace with little requirement.

After Adam and Eve sinned grace brought discipline rather than destruction and provided redemption through the promise of Jesus who would crush the serpent's head.  The story continues with each chapter highlighting a Biblical character whose life showcases God's grace.

Abraham was chosen to begin a nation through which God would fulfill His plan to send Christ. Through Moses, God initiated relationship with a nation of Egyptian slaves and then gave them His law to confirm His care for them.  The  law is intended not to make us good, but to keep us free from the natural consequences of sin. When the law is broken, God's grace included instructions for how to make amends.

Other Biblical stories in the book include God sparing Rahab's life in the Jericho account, grace that was bigger than David's notorious sin with Bathsheba, and a grace that complicated Jonah's life by calling him to administer grace to an enemy nation. Grace is God's response to the thirsty soul as evidenced in Jesus' encounter with the Samaritan woman.
Lastly, the author challenges the church to neither add to or take away from this Grace, or it will not longer be Grace.  Let the church not make it difficult for the new believer to be embraced and accepted.

Without complicated theological arguments or definitions, the Grace of God is a comfortable read.  There were sections where I believe the author takes a fair amount of liberty in assigning motive or conclusion to a Biblical account.  Nicodemus probably became a believer after his late night clandestine visit with Jesus.  He is openly involved in removing Jesus' body from the cross. However, Stanley covers almost 5 pages explaining how Nicodemus reasoned his way to faith and then makes this statement, referring to the crucifixion of Christ.
"Nicodemus stood in the crowd and watched as Jesus was lifted up.  Perhaps he was the only one who understood the significance and sacredness of that moment.  And as he watched the Messiah die, he believed.  He was born from above.  For the first time in his righteous life, he had assurance of a righteous standing with God." (p. 160)

Another section that bothered me was, again, within the Nicodemus story.  To Nicodemus, Jesus compares his death to how Moses lifted up the bronze serpent in the wilderness. Stanley claimed the Israelites had wandered into an area that had poisonous snakes.  As many people where dying, God instructs Moses to create the snake to set on a pole.  (Num. 21:9).  "It was an object lesson meant to to teach the nation to look to God for their protection and provision." (p. 155)  I think Stanley misses the redemptive message in the Numbers account. Verse 7 clearly implies the snakes were sent by God because the people had sinned and spoken against the Lord.  The snake was raised so that anyone who looked upon it could live. Without that truth in the story there is no redemption and a comparison to Jesus' death would infer that his reason for death was less than a willing sacrifice for our salvation.

Even with these flaws, I gained a perspective on divine grace that increased my awe of a good God who loved humankind from the beginning and has always been working for reconciliation and provides a way for them to be eternally with him through sending his only son to die for their sins. This message is clearly presented in a prayer for salvation the author includes in chapter 10.

There are great quotes throughout the book that could easily be extracted for gracing a refrigerator door. I'll leave you with just a few to ponder.

"Grace is the vehicle God uses on occasion to ensure that we get precisely what we don't deserve."

"Christ's death and resurrection signaled to the world that the kingdom of God is not reserved for good people.  It is reserved for forgiven people."

"In God's story, you are the focus of a celebration.  Not what you've done. You."

I received this book free of charge from the program in exchange for my honest review.