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Glimpse.Glean.Grow.

Question: How long does it take to grow in your relationship with God? Answer: Moments. Simple Moments. If you are looking to learn more about scripture, grow closer to God, and have your life transformed by God’s Word, do it moment by moment.

Your Attention Please

April 12, 2012

As a mom I am always trying to get my kids attention. Sometimes I am calm; sometimes my voice roars like a fierce storm commanding them into action. In both situations my goal remains the same – I want my children to think about my words and rearrange their steps.

God communicates with us in similar ways. God spoke to Paul with the urging of the Holy Spirit and closed doors. God spoke to the jailer through an earthquake. In both situations, God wanted the recipients to contemplate His message and adjust their lives accordingly.

God chooses His methods of communication based on where we are on our spiritual journey with Him, to Him. God tailors His message to our immediate needs and His immediate desire for us. God’s instructions are for our good, our joy, His delight and the good of others.

Questions for you to ponder or respond to:

  1. What has God’s message been to you this past week?
  2. What are the differences between God’s initial communication with someone and His later messages?
  3. How does recognizing God’s methods of communication help you identify inadequacies in how you communicate with others?
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“Einee, Meinee, Minee, mo…” and other great ways to make tough decisions

April 5, 2012

Did you ever feel like no matter what you did you were doing the wrong thing? I have been in this situation a few times. I remember coming home from college and feeling divided. I wanted to see my friends and my family, but my family also wanted to see me and my friends wanted to see me. I felt like no matter which choice I made, someone was NOT going to be happy.

I often feel like this with my kids. I try to be fair, to encourage sharing, yet I know the moment I make a choice to give someone the toy first, I am making the others extremely upset. I know that my decisions, flawed and imperfect, will have consequences (this is why I usually rely on “einee, meinee, minee, mo” to make all of my tough mommy decisions). Seriously, all kidding aside, I know that left to myself, I would make decisions flippantly and would allow my emotions to rule my actions. I can’t begin to imagine how I would have handled the different situations where Paul and Barnabas found themselves.

While I know Paul and Barnabas were fully convinced of their mission from God, I wonder if their humanness every clouded their minds for a moment, started their feet moving in the opposite direction of the Holy Spirit. I know I would have been thinking, “What? You are going to throw stones at me for telling you that you can have a relationship with the God of the Universe? Fine. I don’t need this. I will keep this information all to myself.” Paul and Barnabas kind of did this as they left towns that didn’t approve of their message (shaking the dust off of their feet). However, they kept moving onto the next town. They moved from town to town experiencing the same kind of opposition and persecution over a message that was “Good News”. Only the Spirit of God would be able to compel people to continue in these types of circumstances. And the Holy Spirit did just that.

After the first town, Paul and Barnabas had a choice to make. They knew that if they continued sharing the message, they would be pleasing God, doing what He called them to do; however, they knew that their message would most likely be met with brutality. Whom would they please?

Thankfully, they chose to please the One who will not disappoint. They listened to the Holy Spirit and walked forward, sharing the love of God as the stones were being kicked around and chosen for their torture. What is more, they decided that they would return to those towns that had marked them as dead men. They returned to those towns to encourage God’s chosen in those areas.

These kinds of choices make my everyday decisions over who gets what seem inconsequential. If I were placed in the same situations as Paul and Barnabas, would I make the choice to follow the Holy Spirit?

In our reading for this week, we were privileged to see that following the Holy Spirit isn’t just limited to sharing the good news of  Jesus. We know that the Holy Spirit needs to be followed in every decision because we so often – even in our attempt to be “good Christians” – follow our human desires for control and position. After sharing with the less than hospitable towns, what did Paul and Barnabas step into next? Nothing but division and infighting on the home team bench (sorry, I had to throw that line out there in honor of opening day). What were these fellow believers fighting about? They were fighting over whether or not Gentiles had to obey the laws God had established for the nation of Israel. Talk about missing the point of the spirit of the Law. It is almost like the Pharisees were saying, “How come they can eat pork and I can’t. I want to eat pork. Woe is me.” Seriously, the Pharisees should have just eaten the pork because their abstinence was not pleasing to God; their hearts weren’t right.

Why did God direct Luke to include this church policy conversation in the book of Acts? It seems like it might be a turn-off passage for those people who don’t want the church – a band of hypocrites – to control their actions.

I think the point of both passages (Paul and Barnabas’ revival run and the new church policy discussion)is that we cannot make the BEST decisions without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Seriously, if Christians weren’t connected by and to the Holy Spirit, we would all see that there is still just enough hell in all of us to make life on Earth unbearable for everybody. Without God’s guidance, we will seek to control and manipulate situations and others so that the outcome is best for us. But what do we know? We can’t see the future, nor can we completely predict the actions of others. God knows all things. We need His wisdom and understanding.

So what should we do in those situations where we need to make decisions like sharing Jesus, correcting a fellow believer, visiting our family, deciding which child gets the toy or answering any of life’s most important questions? Do we follow the “einee, meinee, minee, mo…” method or do we pray and ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and guidance?

 

 

Freedom

April 3, 2012

Who doesn’t want to be free? In the United States we seem almost obsessed with freedom. We celebrate our national freedom every July 4th. We remember civil rights and the freedoms extended to minorities every Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We act out women’s liberation every time we vote in November. My initial question might seem rudimentary in light of all of these distinct acts of commending freedom, yet I would say that NO ONE wants to be free. No one seeks freedom – TRUE FREEDOM.

Wow…I almost can’t believe I wrote those last two sentences. My thoughts have a way of evolving as I write, yet I know what I wrote is true. In Psalms 14:1-3, the Psalmist says, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’. They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none who does good. The Lord looks down from Heaven on the children of man, to see if there are any who understand God, who seek after God. They have all turned aside; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even on.” No one seeks God. No one seeks freedom. How depressing?

You might be wondering why I am equating God and freedom. How do they connect? Jesus tell His disciples in John 14:6 , “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Again, I know you are probably thinking, “connection?” Jesus calls Himself the TRUTH. There aren’t many people who do define themselves as truth. There aren’t many people who are killed for doing this either. Yet Jesus calls Himself the truth and is willing to die for this label. Why? It is so we can be free.

In the gospel of John chapter 8, when the Jewish people questioned Jesus, demanding that He explain to them who He was, Jesus explains to them that He is not of this world. The Jewish leaders prod more and more, yet all of their questions draw people to Jesus. Jesus tells his disciples in John 8:31-32, “If you hold to my teachings, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the TRUTH, and the TRUTH will set you FREE.”

Knowing God (made possible only through Jesus) = TRUE FREEDOM

The Jewish people worshiped God, obeyed His law, observed His ways, yet they did not KNOW God. They did not know FREEDOM. The Jewish people were always indebted to God. He saved them from Egypt; they made an idol and worshiped it. He gave them food; they complained and disobeyed instructions regarding food. He gave them the law; they did what they wanted.

Have you ever tried to have a relationship with someone to whom you were indebted? It is not easy. There is always this unspoken sense of unfinished business. No depth can be achieved in that relationship until there is equality, freedom from whatever is driving the stake between the two people. Usually when you owe someone something, you steer clear of that person until you can pay them back. (Maybe this isn’t true for you, but it is for me).

For the Jewish people – for people of all time – we have not sought God because we OWE HIM something, something we can NEVER REPAY. We OWE God PERFECTION. That is why no one seeks God like the Psalmist said. That is why, even if we don’t believe there is a God, the idea of relating to God seems ridiculous. Why would a perfect God want to have a relationship with me?

Yet God does want a relationship with us. In an act of infinite faithfulness, the God of the Universe – Jesus – came to Earth. Jesus pursued humanity and came to give us FREEDOM.

Jesus paid God the debt we owed. Jesus gave His life so that all could live in His PERFECTION. Standing in perfection, without debt, before God – this is TRUE FREEDOM.

Why is this TRUE FREEDOM? We were created to have a relationship with God, something we destroyed the moment we stopped being perfect. If we are not doing what we were intended to do, we are not free; we are slaves to whatever keeps us from fulfilling our intended purpose. Our intended purpose is to know God and be known by Him.

The people to whom Paul was addressing in the book of Acts understood this idea. They wanted Paul to come back and preach the same message of freedom over and over again. THIS IS GOOD NEWS! We don’t owe God anything. We can now know God – the One who created ALL things and holds ALL things together. This is FREEDOM.

  1. Do you get excited about this freedom?
  2. Why would you want to hear these truths over and over again?
  3. How does freedom from sin impact the way you live your life?
  4.  How do you relate to God differently?

Meeting at St. Paul’s March 22, 2012

March 22, 2012

Hello…we will be meeting tonight at St. Paul’s Presbyterian Church at 7:00 PM in the Library. Join us for some yummy treats and uplifting conversation. If you are looking for a way to prepare, feel free to look over the discussion questions that I have posted over the past couple of weeks since our last meeting. These questions and our thoughts will be our guide for tonight’s discussion. Hope to see you there.

*A post from this week’s reading will be posted tomorrow, Friday, March 23, 2012.

Remember Your Roots

March 15, 2012

As I am getting ready to write this post, all kinds of titles are jumping through my brain. Limitless Possibilities. No Restrictions. All Aboard. Inclusion. Anything Goes. (It’s funny how none of those titles made the cut.)

Here we are a third of the way through the book of Acts, watching the early church grow, and God throws off the gloves. Instead of manhandling the attackers of the faith – Jews and the Gentiles – God embraces them and turns the whole game upside down (sorry I was just recently watching hockey). God takes the opposition to the faith and turns them into the propagation. God took Saul (later called Paul) – notorious Jewish bounty hunter – transformed his life on the Damascus road, and used Saul (Paul) to reach the unclean Gentile world with the good news of Jesus and used him to write most of the New Testament. God used devout Gentiles like Cornelius to encourage Jewish men and women who were in need and to show the Jewish Christians that God’s plan was and is much bigger than the nation of Israel. God used these situations to show us His heart – HE LOVES ALL PEOPLE.

I am NOT saying that God loves  the ACTIONS of ALL people. I am NOT saying that God loves ALL religions. I am definitely NOT saying that God lacks standards. I AM saying that if God’s love were conditional and based on us, NO ONE could stand – not even the most religious. The playing field has been leveled. We ALL stand as equals. WE ALL – Protestants, Catholics, Heterosexual, Homosexual, Bisexual, Democrats, Republicans, Independents, Tea Partiers, Communists, Black, White, Yellow, Orange, Green, Purple  (you get what I am driving at) – WE ALL DESERVE HELL!

WHY?

Because it is what we chose. We chose and often still choose to find our identity in anything other than God. We find our identity in our job, our family, our church, our hobbies, etc… When those things fail us or fade away, so will we. We will forever live in emptiness, hopelessness, rejection, and fear. These are the things we are left with if we don’t have God. This is HELL.

BUT…

With the playing field leveled, there is only one standard that can remain. GOD. So, God, in His great love for ALL people, gave HIMSELF. He stooped down. He came to OUR COLLECTIVE level. And made a way for us to have a restored relationship with Himself. Jesus the Christ (the MESSIAH) is the game changer.

There ARE levels now with Jesus in the mix – those who have a relationship with God (who find their identity in Jesus) and those who have no relationship with God (who find their identity in themselves). Acts is telling the story of those who have a relationship with God, and God is carefully reminding them in very different ways that without  Jesus they are on the same level as ALL people. It is God through Jesus who has made us who we are as the church.

If the good news of Jesus were shared by deserving people, by people who lived outside of the “real” world, by people who were BETTER than others, Christianity would have flopped. Good thing God knew better than to choose THOSE people, right?

I think the sooner we start remembering our roots, reminding ourselves that we are all on the same level without Jesus, we will have compassion, love ALL people and share the good news of Jesus in a different way.

For this week’s discussion, comment on one (1) of the following questions:

  1. What did I learn this week that really stood out to me?
  2. What did I learn about God?
  3. Why do you think God chose to use Saul?
  4. As believers, how should we interact with those who do not share our beliefs, ethics or morality?
  5. Why do we get hung up on the actions of others?
  6. How should we testify to what God has done in our lives?
  7. How do we live in the good news of Jesus and vitally function in the “real” world?
  8. How do we find our identity in God alone?

Meeting at St. Pauls

March 15, 2012

Hello local friends of Glimpse.Glean.Grow. We had scheduled a meeting for this evening, March 15, 2012; however, the meeting has been changed to next week, March 22, 2012, at 7:00 PM. Sorry for the inconvenience. I hope you are all having a great week. I will also post a discussion question later on this afternoon. Thanks.

Radical Obedience

March 12, 2012

The book of Acts is sometimes called the Acts of the Apostles. If I were to title this book I would  call it the book of Radical Obedience. I have been so struck by the obedience of the apostles lately. I mean, they were obedient in the face of great opposition, even when faced with death.

Take for example, Philip. How incredible? He knew this man Saul was hunting Christians, yet he BOLDLY spoke about God’s new administration. My husband and I lived in a country that was adverse to the good news of Jesus. We would often share, but had to watch where and when for fear of the “officials” who would deport us and imprison our friends. Philip and most of the apostles didn’t care about consequences from man; they were concerned with sharing God’s love. They trusted God to care for them in the best way – whether that was freedom, imprisonment, torture or death.

How obedient would we be in the circumstances that surrounded the apostles and the early church? How bold would we be? How bold and obedient are we now in relative ease? I pray that we can become more and more radical like our God, like the early church and like our brothers and sisters around the world who fight everyday for what they believe.

For this week’s discussion, answer one of the following questions:

1. What did you learn this week that really stood out to you?

2. What did you learn about God?

3. Why do you think we are not as bold and obedient as the apostles and the early church?