Archive for September, 2010

Have you ever been cliff jumping? You know, where you run to the edge of a towering rock face and then throw your body over the side… free falling toward a  deep pool of icy water with ever increasing momentum? ..I haven’t.

I love the outdoors, I especially love water, and I love hanging out with adventure sports people. But my brain tends to be more of a calculating one… so how far OUT would I have to jump to avoid smashing into the cliff on the way down… how DEEP is that water… are there any hidden ROCKS lurking beneath the surface that could paralyze me?!  I want to calculate the risk before jumping. So, inevitably, I will stand at the edge of the rock face — gazing longingly at the refreshing water below — and watch person after person run, flailing or gracefully diving, and JUMP.

Do you live your life like the person who stands at the edge paused, hesistant to truly dive into something?  Have you been living with “one toe in”, involved somewhat but not fully invested in relationships, commitments, future plans, and –dare I say it — “church”? I have.

Ever wondered what it would be like to go all in? To really live the way that God intended? Sure, it’s easy to go to church, listen to the sermon, maybe even volunteer in the nursery, give money to a charitable organization, or lead a Bible study group. But I’m talking about something more… more than learning about what God has to say, actually living that way. I’m not suggesting it’s bad to do these things, but I am suggesting that we can do all this — and more — and still be standing at the edge of the cliff.

Those who will commit to nothing, who stand for nothing, and who risk for nothing, in the end, rarely accomplish anything. (The Bravehearted Gospel, p. 123)

Following God is not a list of “do nots” or guilt-laden commitments throughout the week;  it’s about relationship — first with the God of the universe and then with the people around us. Being a Christian is about living like Christ, not just talking about it. Let us not merely talk about theological questions of the ages, let us pray for our friends who have cancer, release bitterness and confront hatred, and allow the Bible to move from our brains and seep into our hearts that it may transform who we are and not just what we do. May what we DO flow out of who we are, out of love  for one another not out of obligation. May we not be legalistic, superficial, self-righteous people. May we not be people who have “the appearance of godliness” but deny its power (2 Timothy 3:5).

So what does this “all in” look like?

Black Rock cliff jump, Maui

I think it means caring more about what God thinks than the people we try to impress: romantic interests, colleagues, friends, bosses, parents, etc. It means that our motivations matter: the reasons behind our actions. It means relationships are saturated with honesty and love: we let down our walls and let people see us as we truly are… and we love on people as they truly are. It means we have to trust God with a LOT: we withdraw from the driver’s seat in life and yield to God’s guiding. It means we cut out the sin (the things that aren’t right before God) from our lives; we allow people to shine light on those areas and we listen to their words with humility. It means we spend time with God: reading the Bible and praying. It means instead of being crazy busy we prioritize and simplify: we go DEEP instead of WIDE. It means we apologize and forgive — always. We seek to restore broken relationships.

As a single girl in her 20s, let me add this to the ladies out there…  This also means we take an honest look at the way we interact with the guys in our lives. It means we gain our sense of beauty, power, identity, and worth not from the praises of charming — and not-so-charming — fellows, but from God. This doesn’t mean making ourselves unattractive, but rather taking a closer look at our wardrobes, especially the mini skirts and plunging shirts, and our hearts. I think jumping “all in” means we willingly relinquish the sense of power and control that comes from turning heads and collecting compliments. It means we choose to put God in the spotlight instead of ourselves.

Please hear me, this is not a formula. It’s not a “10 steps to heaven” deal. The Bible says people are saved through faith in Christ, it’s not something you earn (Ephesians 2:8-9, Titus 2:5) it’s something you believe (Romans 10:9). What I’m talking about is living a FULL life, at taking God at his word and believing that he really knows best how to approach life. So, go ahead and take the plunge… bring on the ripples of change! : )

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It’s the beginning of the school year. The clouds above the northwest have swelled and begun pouring rain — in large and small amounts — on the streets and sidewalks of my little corner of the city. Coffee pots are being dusted off, syllabi handed out, and pillows less frequented… September has come.

I remember when school meant long rides on the crickety bus and the hustle and bustle of malls filled with teenagers eagerly awaiting their chance to walk into the same halls with a new identity — transformed by their summer experiences, relationships, and newly infused fashionable wardrobes. I remember getting ready… buying textbooks, school bags, pens, locker decorations, and such. And then sitting in class trying to stay awake.

…Not this year.

I love my classes. For the past two years I have had the incredible opportunity to study, well, God. : ) From Greek language to counseling, theology to global issues, and Genesis to Revelation the whole idea of coming to seminary has been to get to know God: to study the Bible, spend time with God in prayer, and to let that transform my life from the inside out.

I was sitting in class yesterday morning thinking about the heartbreak in America, the bitterness toward God that so many hold when he has failed to come through for them — or it appears that way. My professor was talking about an often quoted, but misunderstood, verse (Matthew 18:19-20):

“…if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

On its own it sounds a lot like God is promising that when two people agree on something and come to him in prayer about it that He will give them whatever they ask. It’s a formula to get our wildest prayers answered — or so it may appear at first glance. So we grab a buddie and pray earnestly for a job, spouse, medical healing, guidance on an issue or the like… and if God doesn’t grant our request we shake our fists at Him and point our fingers bitterly to this verse. We feel entitled to an answer, an answered PROMISE to be precise, but the problem is that we misunderstood the verse. We took it out of context.

The verse, which starts with “Again I say to you”, is part of a larger unit of thought that stretches back to the beginning of chapter 18. My professor continued speaking: the main idea is that when Christians live in sin, fellow Christians should seek to restore them to fellowship. This passage is about relationships within the church, about acting with humility toward one another, and not causing harm. Oh, that we would take these words to heart and not just skim over them!

When a Christian does sin (by doing something contrary to what God says is right), as the church we should reach out in love and humility in every effort to restore them into relationship and fellowship. The context surrounding the description of how this should be done includes a strong emphasis on humility (the opposite of pride), and love. Rather than condemning and “scarlet lettering” someone, we are to approach the person with an attitude like a shepard going after a single sheep that’s wandered off. The shepard’s desire is — most likely–  not to beat the sheep, but to bring it back to the flock and to safety.  When this is done according to the will of Christ and in real agreement in prayer, it is powerful and God is a part of it.

As I sat and listened to my professor explore this passage, I saw the way its segments were woven together as a unit. I continue to be amazed at the interconnectedness and depth of the Scriptures. While the Bible clearly states blatant truths, there is much more to be learned by peeling back its layers and examining the frameworks within those truths have been presented.

….Here is my hope and my point

May we not hold grudges against God for breaking what we have incorrectly deemed a promise. Let us never remove anyone’s words, especially God’s, from the context in which they are said. God is perfect, always has been, and He loves you and me. Next time you see a one verse bumper sticker, t-shirt, bookmark, or bulletin board I’d encourage us all to open our Bibles and find where it’s nestled. I pray you will be blessed by the experience, and I am confident you will find that God loves you and His promises remain unbroken. : )

image from: http://wapellayouth.files.wordpress.com/2009/11/prayer-hands.jpg

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