Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘prayer’

Philippians 4:6-7

We can put it off, the praying

Sometimes,

Afraid to make ourselves vulnerable

To a God who might

Say no.

But when we do pray,

The trust wells up

And knowing the goodness of our God

Brings peace.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

A lot of Christians talk about the will of God.  Whether they are talking about a “call” for their lives, or direction for day to day choices, a lot of people are curious how they can know God’s will.  Part of the mystery is that whatever process we use for determining the will of God doesn’t seem to work.

We pray, sometimes using a specific method or for a scheduled amount of time.  We submit ourselves, “Thy will be done.”  We seek counsel.  We study.  And then a choice comes, and we listen closely.  Nothing.

We throw out a fleece, like Gideon, and still get nothing.  We put God in a box, making deals with Him, and however it works out we take it as confirmation that we should do whatever we want.  “God, if you want us to build that new sanctuary, supply the 1.2 million dollars for the down payment.”  Only $750,000 comes in, and we decide that God wants us to step out on faith. “I mean, it’s a big thing for God to bring in so much money for the project.”  Or we say, “God, if you don’t want me to do this, close the doors; stop me.”  And months later, we look back thinking, “The devil sure was resisting me in my service to God.  Look at all the persecution I went through!”  Which is the correct view?  Should we make deals with God?  Which voice is limiting Him?

Some people claim to know the will of God.  They get a sign.  They have dreams.  A quiet voice whispers to them.  How can we trust these mystical revelations, when the Bible has so many examples of people being influenced by other powers in the spiritual realm?

Why did the life of a prophet seem so much simpler?  How did he hear God’s voice?  When the early church gathered to pray, what did it look and sound like for the Spirit to say, “Set apart Paul and Barnabas”?  Men in the early church could not be stopped by chains or prisons or even stonings.  We see in these instances the disciples pressing forward, confident that God desires them out on the streets and in the courtyard, preaching the gospel.  What does it mean when Paul said that He tried to go to Bithynia (Acts 16:7) but the Spirit prevented Him?  If Paul wanted to bring the gospel somewhere, but God wouldn’t let him, he was obviously not just trusting that his desires were from God.  So how did Paul know?

But keep reading, because in 2 easy paragraphs, I’m going to solve the problem of the will of God!…  No, I’m not making that claim.  I think part of our problem is that we don’t want to walk by faith.  We want to know every step way in advance.  We want a list of do’s and don’t’s.  When we wait to hear from God, we get impatient and conclude that we won’t hear from Him.  God gave us brains.  Maybe we should work it out.  Or maybe God doesn’t care what we decide.

Some people really do take finding the will of God that far.  Should you give $50 to feed the poor, or $50 to send a missionary, or invest the $50?  None of those uses are sinful.  All can be good and God-honoring.  So it doesn’t matter which you choose.  God will bless you anyway.  God has a will for the big things, but the little things are up to us.  (People have to decide where to draw the line between big things and little things:  Prophecy must be a big thing.  Jesus coming to die for us had to happen.  Sometimes big things are whom we marry or where we go to school.  For other people, they consider those life-changing decisions to be some of the little ones where God leaves us to decide on our own.)  In any case, it takes a lot of study and extreme moral clarity to make sure that one of the options we’re considering is not sinful.  We’re left to make a score sheet for each choice.  And how do you add in factors like selfishness or vanity, good stewardship or discernment?  What is wisdom anyway?

Or maybe we should stop worrying about the will of God.  God’s in control, so everything that happens is what is meant to happen.  We’re not going to change that, so why stress?  Que sera, sera.  There’s an easy way to figure out God’s will: hindsight.

Here’s what I believe.  God is in control, and no one will change His plan.  His plan covers the details, even the details of how we decide and that we sought to please Him in our decisions.  His plan includes His guidance and revelation.  Wisdom is not knowing the tally sheet for all the different options.  It is a dependence on God’s perspective, even when His way doesn’t seem to be practical or likely to work out.  Part of having a relationship with God is waiting on Him.  He is faithful to provide the guidance we need, and merciful enough that, if we are seeking Him and asking for His help, our feet will not stumble; our lives won’t be ruined by our God-submitted choice.

Some things are clearly revealed as the will of God.  He desires our sanctification.  He desires us to be thankful and to pray to Him.  He tells husbands to love their wives, and disciples to preach the word.  To trespass those instructions would be sinful.  So the possibilities are narrowed down.

Duty is another way to make our decisions easier, by limiting our options.  We make a commitment (according to the will of God), and follow through.  A father may wonder whether to take a job in New Jersey or Texas, but he knows he must provide for his family.  A conference speaker may get to choose his topic or his wording, but he’s obligated to speak.  A mom must change a diaper.  My friend volunteered at an orphanage.  Once she was there, she had to do what she was told.  Her duty made the will of God for her simpler.  When Paul decided to heed his vision and go to Macedonia, he didn’t have to ask God:  “Should I move my left foot?  Now right?  What about my right foot?”

Of course God is helping us just as much to accomplish what we know He wants us to do as He helps us find out what He wants us to do.  It is easy to be relieved at knowing we are where God wants us, and forget to excel, forget to walk in the Spirit as we obey.  We think God sent us on an errand and now our own intelligence and strength will get it done.  There’s danger in duty, the danger of empty legalism.  But there is peace, too, in knowing what one ought to do: what must be done.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I called this edition Pigfest on the Roof, and nominally themed it off of Fiddler on the Roof, inviting people to bring a traditional side dish or dessert for the feast.  But we did not meet on the roof.  Instead, we crammed 21 adults and 7 children into my living room, kitchen, and hallway.  I thought about taking pictures this time, but I am simply not that organized!

In the 3 hours we met, the Pigfesters engaged in seven separate debates.  Everyone behaved very well, which made moderating rather easier.  The topics were interesting and well-engaged.

  1. Because the government is anti-God and immoral, it would be immoral to pay taxes. Jesus said to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.  But what is Caesar’s?  To how much was Caesar entitled?  When the sitting executive’s face is not on our coin, as it was in Jesus’ day, is it still to be rendered to him?  Does our personal judgment determine the justice of a tax?  Is the income tax even legal?  Is it rather unconstitutional?  But the resolution was giving moral reasons for refusing to pay taxes, not legal ones.  Must Christians submit to immoral governments?  Is doing something morally wrong in the name of submission ok?  In the Bible, children were wiped out with their fathers for the sin of the father, but we see no mention of justification because they were just doing what their fathers instructed.  Do the layers of responsibility in the government protect us from culpability?  That is, by paying taxes, are we not simply enabling the government to make good choices?  That they make bad choices is a potential consequence of our trust.  But, we are in a democracy where we the people choose our government.  Some of our taxes do go to moral things, like roads.  It was suggested that we look at the federal budget and deduct from our income tax a corresponding percentage to that which the government spends on immoral activities, and to enclose a letter of explanation.  There is a doctrine of Lesser Magistrates, which discusses the conflict between obeying contradicting authorities or whether citizens are required to submit to authorities not established by the higher authority (in this case, the US Constitution).  Jesus paid his taxes (the story of the coin in the fish).
  2. Men have no biblical responsibilities towards their families. Paul had to have been married, so it is possible he abandoned his wife for the call of God.  (This was highly debated.)  If a man does not provide for his own family, he is worse than an infidel – the Bible.  A husband is to love his wife as himself, which often includes caring for her needs.  At this point, the contributor of the resolution conceded that the Bible did have some responsibilities listed for men towards their families, so the debate shifted to what they are:  What is the definition of men?  It includes fathers, husbands, sons, and brothers.  Brothers were commanded in the Mosaic Law to take their sister-in-laws as wife if they were barren widows (law of the kinsman-redeemer).  Lot is an example of a man whom we do not, in our culture, consider to have been a good father.  He offered his daughters to the lustful crowd – and what’s up with that?  But, was he a jerk, or was he righteous?  Scripture is often addressed to fathers, which seems to be significant.  Some of the sons of Jacob slaughtered a city to avenge their sister’s rape.  Is that a responsibility?  God is presented as a Father.  Are we not to imitate Him?  Does God have any obligations to His children?  Obligations (and by implication, responsibilities) have to do with consequences.  When God takes an action, he is responsible for the consequences, and thus obligated to abide those consequences…  Likewise, a man is obligated to deal with the child he has if his wife conceives.  God’s fatherhood is often demonstrated in punishment.  But He is also merciful.  Are fathers, therefore, required to imitate God’s grace as well as His chastising?  Whence comes the impulse to provide and protect?  If not from the Bible, and if not from the character of God, then where?
  3. America has gotten worse since the Women’s Liberation movement. Worse was described as moral deterioration: divorce, abortion, crime.  And the women’s liberation movement was specified as that movement that rose in the 60’s and focused on equal opportunity, women leaving the home for the workplace, and sexual liberation.  Perhaps it is not the actual liberating of women that caused the moral decline, but the attitude women took.  Are we talking about a cause of moral decline, or is the women’s liberation movement yet another symptom of a larger rebellion.  It was a rebellion against God.  “We hate men” was not the origin of the movement, but rather, World War II empowered women when men were unable to work the factories and women left the home to take up those responsibilities.  Or perhaps women’s lib. started with suffrage.  Are not all created equal, even male and female?  Does that not apply to roles?  The real wickedness of the feminist mindset is not, “We hate men,” but “We hate God.”  For they are rebelling against God’s created order.  Perhaps women, though, were not the instigators.  Maybe men abusing their authority, really oppressing them (for example, physical violence) caused women to assert themselves.  What does this subject matter today?  Abortion is going on today, and is horribly unjust to fathers.  They have no legal right to stay the murder of their own child.  A result of the women’s liberation movement is that men were not allowed to be men, and so have abdicated their roles.  But shouldn’t men have stood up against the women’s liberation movement and defended the God-given order?  Those who did were slandered.  Really, emasculation is a result of the Fall and the Curse, when God told Eve that her desire would be for her husband, it is the terminology of desiring to be “over” her husband, just like sin “got the better of” Cain.  Women today do appreciate their liberties, without wicked motives, and make good use of them (women doing missions without their families).  The Christian worldview has been proclaimed as the kindest to women.  Are we kind to women to fight for equality in the area of sexual promiscuity?  Should we not have fought for equality the other way, of neither men’s nor women’s promiscuity being acceptable?  Even though we may disagree with the movement, we can use the women’s liberties today for good: a woman who doesn’t believe women should have the vote can choose to submit her vote to her husband’s views.  The movement is continuing even today, but is evolving, and so is not necessarily from the same motives as the feminists had in the 60’s.
  4. Sharing is unnecessary and not biblically supported. Sharing is defined as co-ownership, especially as opposed to lending.  The distinction between (and comparative value of) giving and sharing was a theme throughout the debate.  Are we saying that taking turns is unnecessary?  When a child’s friend comes over to play, what is the host child to do?  Should he keep his toys to himself?  Or – perhaps he should truly give the toy, not expecting it back.  Sharing is looking out for other’s interests, putting others ahead of yourself.  [Ownership] rights are unbiblical.  We put so much emphasis on our rights, but God calls us to give up our rights.  Christians are told to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Is there a difference morally between offering to share with someone else, and requesting that someone else share with you?  Sharing may be unnecessary when giving is an option.  But to whom are we to give?  How much?  Sharing makes life better and more efficient.  Instead of buying a toy for each child in a family, they can share one toy.  Sometimes there is no money to buy for each individual what they need, but they can have what they need if they all share one.  How is hospitality done if not by sharing?  God owns everything anyway; none of this property is really ours.  God made us stewards, and we are to exercise wisdom and discernment in how best to use what He has entrusted to us.
  5. God withholds because we do not ask. If we are obedient to God, then we abide in God’s love, and God does what we ask.  When we walk with God, He gives us the desires of our hearts.  The Bible encourages us to entreat God – even to the point of nagging Him.  How does God’s sovereignty fit into the equation?  Is God really dependent on our actions?  God gives some good gifts without prayer (common grace: rain falls on just and unjust; and special grace to Christians, but without us asking).  When the Spirit intercedes for our weakness, what if our weakness is that we don’t ask for the right things?  Can He bridge that gap?  Generally that verse is not interpreted as praying for us when we are not praying, but interceding for us as we pray.  God changes His mind when people act or plead with Him.  Either God lies or He changes His mind, for he told Moses that He would destroy Israel, and then God didn’t.  If our children acted that way, we would punish them…  It seems best to act as though what we do and pray matters, regardless of what we believe about the sovereignty of God.  Daniel knew God’s prophecy that He would do something at a certain time, but Daniel still prayed for it to happen.  Is God’s plan allowed to be malleable?  If not for that, could we have this redemption story: God creates the world perfect, but man sins, so God gets to demonstrate His lovingkindness by sending His only Son to die for us.  Or did God plan it that way all along?  Isn’t consistency an attribute of God?  Maybe God must only be consistent within His character (for example, mercy).
  6. Ownership for the sake of hospitality is the best kind of stuff and the best kind of ownership. Best is defined as optimal, in the short term and/or in the long term.  People are not equivalent to “stuff.”  The other reason to have a lot of stuff is to be like a dragon, hoarding riches and laying on them because they bring pleasure to you individually.  Are families included in hospitality?  If you own something for the purpose of benefiting others who are in your family, is that still the best kind?  There is this trend toward larger and larger master bedrooms, which serves no hospitable purpose, but often detracts from available space for hospitality towards others.  Hospitality, though, is an attitude, and can be demonstrated without stuff.  Should we buy a lot of stuff to be hugely hospitable?  There is a difference between purchasing stuff for the sake of hospitality and making hospitable use of stuff bought for other reasons.  This resolution did not address the inherent value of the property in question (ought we to be hospitable with our Play Station?), but rather, with the motive in possessing it.  Hospitality enables relationships.  Maybe a better kind of ownership would be for God’s call: some people need their own space to refresh in order to do what God has called them to do.  If it is impossible to share without making yourself useless, hospitality might not be the most important thing.  We should be willing to give up property when God wants us to do something else.
  7. Intimate friendships with the same sex is just as important for men as for women. Intimacy was defined as vulnerability especially in the senses of accountability and sharing emotions.  Men see the world differently: things versus relationships.  Guys do have as intimate of relationships, but do not express them the same way as girls.  Spending the day hunting and sharing a one-sentence commentary on their job (men) can be as intimate as a three hour conversation (women).  But the argument of the resolution is that men need to express more – a lot of times, and not in a way that looks like women.  Take, for example, David and Jonathan, who had a much closer relationship than what is common to men in our culture.  Men are afraid to reveal themselves, especially for accountability.  There is also a difficulty in expressing masculine intimacy for fear of seeming “queer*.”  Are women really good examples of intimate friendships, or rather than holding each other accountable, aren’t we gossiping and discussing things that shouldn’t be said?  Many men experience closer friendships with other men before marriage, and miss those relationships afterwards, but have been unable or have neglected to keep them up.  Men have been influenced by the doctrine of individualism, so that they overvalue doing things on their own and not asking for help.  The hard world necessitates a shell especially for men, who are in the world more than women.  Men don’t have time for relationships.  World War II hurt the willingness of men to be open, because they did not want to talk about the horrors they had witnessed or even committed.  Were male relationships more prominent in the past or in other cultures?  *queer in the sense of homosexual

Each 15-minute segment seemed to go too fast and be over too soon.  The incredible value of Pigfests it that they do not allow you to really complete a topic, or all the aspects brought up in the debate.  So we keep thinking and talking (and writing!) for weeks to come.  I think it is interesting how there are often two themes weaving their way through the debate.  At some points there were up to four people with their hands up waiting to speak, so the different threads were carried on well.  For myself, I had prepared a resolution, but the things I wanted to bring up with it were touched on in so many of the other debates that I decided not to present mine for debate.

All in all I am quite pleased with how the night went.  God answered all of my prayers for the party.  As hostess and moderator and human being I felt more focused than I have at some Pigfests, and for that I also thank God.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I read a story last week: Return of the Guardian King.  Fourth and final of a vividly epic fantasy series written by a woman who knows my world, my type, and my God.  Her name is Karen Hancock, and her stories have invaded my imagination permanently.

It is a book about temptation, I told a friend.  Resisting in the slow way, wearied by the persistence, common days, small things.  And massive temptations: to betray all you have believed in, to denounce the promises of God for the power of ruling kingdoms, to trade love in the good God and His simple gifts to the extravagant suit of the alluring devil.  But the large and the small are the same. 

The characters are strong against deception and temptation when they have been faithful in the daily denying of self.  To live for others, in kindness and patience, prepares each person against bitterness and despair.  Immersion in the truth and promises of God is comfort and hope.  Even if their prayer is a single cry for help from God, bad things trun to good when people talk to their God. 

The story isn’t about what is happening on the outside as much as it is about whether the characters are trusting God, whether they know with all their might that He loves them and that His plans for them are good.  When they are rebelling against him, they are miserable.  So are those around them.  So am I. 

Kiriath is in the hands of the jealous and vengeful brother Gillard, possessed by a demon rhu’ema.  Already they treat and ally with the archenemy, Belthe’adi, Abramm had warned them of.  Abramm is known to be dead.  But Abramm is also walking the mountains, chafing under the waiting in a snowed-in monastery.  Maddie is back at her childhood home, a palatial life she never embraced, and her newest royal duty is to marry some rich aristocrat who can offer troops to defend the last stand of her homeland.  But her dreams linked with her beloved’s are back, and something tugs hope alive in her that maybe Abramm survived after all. 

Shapeshifters, dragons, and the critical people who are supposed to be his friends plague Abramm on his Odyssey-like journey back to his wife and sons.  Trap and Carissa mirror Abramm’s struggle with pride and longing but in a quiet domestic setting.  Detours take the exiled king and longed-for husband to places of faith and doubt he never would have imagined – and sometimes wishes he had never asked for. 

Every character learns the power of friends: locking them against temptation, praying for their dearest concerns, teaching and challenging with the truth, dividing the attacks of dragons, delivering messages, watching with unbiased eyes, guarding against betrayal.  Again Abramm learns that it is not his strength that conquers, and that God has not gifted him with leadership and military prowess to fight God’s battles for Him.  He is but a vessel. 

Maddie meets a charming man who is attractive in all the ways Abramm never was.  Tirus wants her, wants to help her.  He understands her and shows her off, showers her with gifts and protects her from scorn.  How long can she wait for her husband whom even her dearest friends still believe is dead?  Will she believe the light-born visions and promises from God, or the technological, repeatable sight from the stone sent to her by her suitor?  Will she change her mind about regal living and the purpose of marriage?  The things that stood in Maddie’s way when she wanted to marry Abramm, and the undeniable need they had for each other – will she forget those? 

When things go from bad to worse, whose job is it to protect the ones they love?  At what cost will they buy safety and love?  Will the armies of the Moon, and the powers of the air – dragons winging terror across the skies – will they succeed in doing their worst, in taking everything from those faithful to God?  Or will they be utterly defeated?  If they cannot be defeated, what is the point in fighting and sacrificing? 

And when God’s people fail, bitterly weak, The Return of the Guardian King resounds with display of God’s mercy.  God knew we were weak when He chose us.  He knew we would fail when He sent His Son to suffer for those sins.  And a single prayer, sometimes the end of God’s longsuffering chase, brings grace empowering His servants to do the right thing.  He cannot deny Himself.  His promises will be true, however faithless we are. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

I’m in between churches right now – between congregations. All summer and fall I’ve been casually attending the meetings of various friends. I can’t tell you how wonderful it feels to not be obligated to make an appearance at any one building on a Sunday morning. I might tell a friend I’m coming, or I might decide Saturday night. Some Sundays I sleep in. Sunday morning heathenism is rather refreshing.

Except it isn’t heathenism. A lot of what happens in those buildings on Sunday mornings is of heathen origin. But heathenism is a lot more than skipping a sermon and praise concert. It is a lifestyle of rejecting God, and that I certainly have not done.

I believe the Bible teaches Christians to gather regularly with each other. That isn’t something I have abandoned either. My recent experience is filled with times of fellowship and encouragement with other believers. We do ministry together, hold each other accountable for our walks with God, philosophically tackle the dilemmas we’re facing, study the Bible, and pray. During these times we also tend to eat, to play games, to laugh and tease, sometimes to work. Kids running around get swept up by disciples of Jesus, who – like Him – love children.

About a month ago some friends invited me to their church. I went that weekend. This week they asked me what I thought, and didn’t I like it (since I hadn’t been back). And I froze, because, well, I did like it. The people were friendly and the teachings were biblical and stimulating. But I don’t think I’ll join. This Sunday I did go back there, though. And my friends’ thirteen-year-old son confronted me, “I thought you said our church was just ‘ok’.”

Hard to explain. This particular church is on the good end of mainstream churches. They have good doctrine. A lot of their money goes to missions. Kids are with parents in church for most of the time, and youth aren’t separated from their families. The music isn’t too loud or too self-centered. With a congregation of about 50, the pastor and teachers can know everyone.

After pondering for a day or so, here is my answer to the thirteen-year-old friend: (it’s alliterative so I can remember!)
1) Plurality. There is only one pastor at the church. He’s the head man. I believe Jesus is the head of the Church, and that leadership beneath Him must be shared among more than one equal. Whenever real life cases are discussed in the New Testament, the word is used in the plural. (Elders) In this way they can model cooperation and problem solving. Congregations and pastors are kept mindful that Christ is the true head, and that the Church is His project. Also, when one is weak, there is another to be strong, the proverbial man to pick you up when you fall. Two are better than one and a cord of three strands is not easily broken. Pastoring is a lonely job, being at the top instead of a part of your congregation as friends and brothers. My Bible describes a different sort of dynamic, where pastors are respected for being respectable and where everyone is exercising his gifts for the good of all: pastors, prophets, discerners, helpers, administrators, on and on.
2) Property. This was quite confusing to my friend, who expects people to scorn his church for meeting in the club house of a condominium complex. Whether you own a building, rent it, or have borrowed money from a bank to claim that you own it, all represent instances where the Church of God has used resources God entrusted to them not to do what He has instructed: caring for the poor, widows, orphans, and missionaries – but to have a separate place to meet. I believe churches are meant to be gathered in homes. Limited in size, surrounded by hospitality and everyday life, the atmosphere of house church encourages the participation of everyone, the familial fellowship of believers, and the synthesis of sacred and secular.
3) Preaching. The New Testament describes and even commends preaching. Except almost always the lecture style sermon was delivered to an unsaved audience. It is a tool of evangelism. And evangelism is not the purpose of the regular gathering of believers. In fact, the church meetings described in 1 Corinthians are much more open and unstructured than what we usually think of as church. No one was scheduled to speak. Anyone (any man?) was allowed to bring a word, be it a prophecy, a teaching, a tongue – as long as he spoke it for the edification of the group. He may share a testimony of God’s work or an instruction or challenge the Spirit laid on his heart to give to his friends. A teaching might be towards an identified deficiency of understanding or may flow out of the studies individuals are making during the week on their own. Prophecy may correct the direction the congregation is going, may identify weaknesses and strengths among them, may warn them, or may give them hope and vision for the future. Some verses indicate that individuals may also bring songs of their choosing to the meetings of believers, with which to encourage each other.

Now that I’ve said those things, I do believe that there is a place for the lecture-style teaching we call sermons. I really enjoy Bible conferences, and am not opposed to worship concerts where the band has practiced and is intending to honor God. When I visit my friends’ churches, I usually view those services as conferences, and I look for the Spirit-driven gatherings elsewhere. At this stage of my life I’m not content with the small groups and Bible studies that have been getting me by. So I’m still looking, reading books and searching websites from people who are practicing what the Bible teaches about Church. I’m excited to see where that leads.

Some questions remain, stronger tensions between the familiar and the ideal: how is authority supposed to work in the church? Is it important? Is it a matter of exercising authority or of submitting to authority? How much should we submit? What shall Christians do for evangelism? Wouldn’t it be better to team up? But is it wrong to invite people in to hear the gospel, or should we go out to them? Are women to speak in the church meetings? If not, why on earth did Paul say so? – Just to prove I don’t think I know everything!

To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Passive.  Active.  Force.  Manipulation.  Choice.  Fate.  Death.  Freedom. 

Does God mean for something to be?  Is the only way to tell God’s will through hindsight?  “Whatever will be, will be”? 

For perfect free will, one must be not only all-powerful, but completely omniscient: to know all possible actions and outcomes and to be able to cause any one of those. 

Humans tend towards arrogance, assuming that their knowledge comprises available knowledge of the world, and that if we seem to ourselves to be in control, we must truly be. 

Though “love changes everything,” knowledge certainly helps. 

Faith is not dependent on what we can comprehend with our own minds, but on the love of God. 

If prayer influences God, does that make prayer powerful? 

Can those who “love their neighbor” kill them?  How much animosity, and how much humility, is required of Christians dealing with Muslims? 

Read Blink of an Eye by Ted Dekker, the story of Seth the surfer-genius who receives a form of clairvoyance that enables him to see possible futures, when he meets a fugitive Saudi princess named Miriam.  What do they learn about the world, each other, themselves, and God?  If there’s a way to happily ever after, they will find it.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

At camp a few weeks ago our whole group learned the armor of God verses from Ephesians 6.  As a counselor, I was working with the junior high girls to learn and understand their verses.  (Praise for teamwork; other people were on the job, too, including the ‘Bible hour’ teacher and some of the other staff and counselors.)  The language of the Bible is sometimes more grammatically complex than everyday usage, so breaking the verses down phrase by phrase and discussing the meaning can help the kids keep the verses in their heads and hearts, as well as legitimizing their inflection.   So I was helping one of the girls with verse 17: “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” and started explaining the sword of the spirit part.  I don’t even remember what I told her, but I know that since that day I have been trying to figure out what it means. 
 
A few questions:
How significant is the comma after “salvation”?  Since “take” is not repeated, are we to equate the term “helmet of salvation” with the term “sword of the spirit”?  Or is there any way to “take” one without the other? 
 
Does the sword belong to the spirit, depend on the spirit, or consist of the spirit?  Cross references usually lead to Hebrews 4:12, whose subject is also the word of God, which seems to cut things, including soul from spirit.  But the Greek for “word” is different in Ephesians from Hebrews. 
 
Back from camp, catching up with a friend, she reported that her small group is going through Ephesians, and that one of the teachers was excited to get to the armor of God and the sword Jesus uses to kill the wicked.  (See Revelation 19:15, 21)  Is that the image here?  Earlier in Revelation the sword seemed to be more of a tool for discipline, discerning the spirits of the churches.  The Revelation sword proceeds from the mouth of Jesus. 
 
Is spirit supposed to be capitalized?  Are we talking about the Holy Spirit, my spirit, or things spiritual?  Or should the sword be used against the spirit? 
 
When Paul says, “which is the word of God,” is the antecedent the sword or the spirit? 
 
I looked up the Greek for this verse.  My use for Greek extends to definitions, but I’m helpless when I come to grammar and tenses.  But I did notice that the Greek for “word” is an utterance, not something written (in the Greek, rhema).  Usually I hear teachers explaining the sword of the spirit and (ignoring that little phrase, ‘of the spirit’) holding a Bible above their heads telling their students that they have to know the word of God, and to study it, to use it like Jesus did when he was tempted in the wilderness.  Except the next thing teachers say is that the sword is the offensive weapon in the armor list (some add prayer, from verse 18).  I don’t see how resisting temptation is an offensive act in the spiritual war we’re fighting. 
 
So what is “word of God”?  Are we talking about words God has spoken, or words God is speaking?  Ephesians 6:19 includes Paul’s prayer request that words (different Greek than verse 17: here it is logos) be given him.  Given him?  By whom?  Whose words are they if they were given?  What did Paul want to do with words?  This is one of the first times in this whole article where the biblical context answers the question, because Paul says he wants to use the words to preach the gospel boldly (which seems rather offensive). 
 
Finally, verse 18, about prayer, rather than being a new sentence, is presented as a continuation of the thought in verse 17.  But what does prayer have to do with the “word of God” or “sword of the spirit”? 
 
How exactly ought we to apply this verse, then? 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

The fruit of the Spirit is… faith, meekness…

I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

…In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth…

Sheep are Brought Down from the High Pastures to Their Winter Grazing, 1934 by Mirrorpix
Sheep are Brought Down from the High Pastures to Their Winter Grazing, 1934

For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day… Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD unto them; Behold, I, even I, will judge between the fat cattle and between the lean cattle. Because ye have thrust with side and with shoulder, and pushed all the diseased with your horns, till ye have scattered them abroad; therefore will I save my flock, and they shall no more be a prey; and I will judge between cattle and cattle.

The Lost Sheep by Alfred Soord
The Lost Sheep

Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves; for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you.

Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure…

Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD’s hand double for all her sins… And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

A man’s heart deviseth his way: but the LORD directeth his steps. There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.

Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free Spirit.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

About 5 this morning I woke up.  No alarm – are you kidding? – sounded.  My dream woke me.  Usually you hear of nightmares scaring you awake.  But this was different.  The dream was equally emotional, and that intensity of feeling awakened me.  For an hour afterwards I couldn’t fall back asleep, unable to shake the strong memory of the dream. 
 
While I lay awake, I prayed.  Processing middle of the night irrationality with God is something I have done before.  I don’t know why God lets me go through insomnia, withholding the sweet forgetfulness and peace of sleep.  Prayers when you can’t think straight and you’re breathing hard to separate uncontrolled imagination with reality are interesting things.  They go in different directions than the considered prayers of the morning and daytime. 
 
One thought was why I dream.  During the day I can have an active imagination, read all sorts of books without pictures.  Why though do dreams take that imagination and do with it what I would never allow – all when the inhibitor chip of my rational, responsible brain is snoozing?  For some reason I compared my mid-night state with dementia or Alzheimer’s.  Those people lose their rationality and their memory.  But deep down, they are the same people.  I thought of two things that could prepare you to go crazy gracefully (don’t judge me for thinking about these things; I say, it was the middle of the night!): 1.  Learn to cope with fear.  I cannot fathom the fear I would experience if I found out I had dementia or Alzheimer’s – or if I woke up in a place I didn’t recognize surrounded by people whom I didn’t remember.  A lot would depend on my trained reaction to such bewilderment.  2.  Build truth and kindness into my character now.  I don’t believe character will change (apart from drug-induced alterations, which I hope to avoid). 
 
Kindness, and a calm response to fearful situations and confusion, are thus some focuses of my life for the next few decades. 
 
To God be all glory,
Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

Whether I thought I needed it or not, the topic has continually reappeared in my life the past few months.  This summer the theme was supernaturally empowered change – the change directed by spending time with God, devoted to prayer, majoring my life on the word of God.  And now, with less change than I expected – or felt called to do, maybe God is wooing me away from my distraction and hitting this change from the other direction.  “Spend time with Me,” He says. 

 

I love my life.  Most days are wonderful.  My mind is always engaged.  I read, and write, and get things done.  Etsy has welcomed me into its world, even though I don’t have any sales yet.  Church activities fill my week, and in the spaces I get together with friends: talking or doing ministry together.  Some days are so filled with searching the Bible for answers that when I go to sleep after midnight and have energy to read only a short Psalm or less with my God, I feel that’s ok.  And I sincerely don’t believe I have to be legalistic. 

 

And then sin creeps in, little thoughts or words out of control or no energy for the priorities God has given me.  Last night, well after the second or even third lesson from the odd place about filling up one’s own spiritual life in order to pour out love and grace to others, I had just enough energy to quickly read Galatians 6, finishing my book of the week.  This was in between TV, movies, ice cream, internet articles, email…  And I felt vaguely guilty putting the Bible away. 

 

When I woke this morning, ambitiously early, instead I lay there realizing how little I’d been talking to God about my days and my life.  We had a chat, but we need more. 

 

God’s grace is amazing.  Tomorrow I’m meeting with some co-Sunday school teachers about our next series, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World (based on the book by JoAnna Weaver).  It so happens that about a year and a half ago I purchased the book for about two dollars, recognizing the title as popular with friends.  The topic didn’t really interest me that much, because I’m Mary.  I’m lazy sometimes, and love to study and be with Jesus more than to work hard and get things done.  So I was going to give the book to our church library, but never got around to it. 

 

Since I conveniently possess this book, I decided to read the first couple chapters to be up to speed with the other ladies who are teaching.  I’m on page 8, still feeling that Martha isn’t really me in general.  And then all the past weeks’ lessons and hints towards “Be still and know that I am God,” come gently back, triggered by a word or a sentence or one of the author’s testimonies. 

 

Sunday evening a friend offered to loan me her apartment for a week as a place to get away quietly with God, to worship.  Friday I was remembering times in the past when I’ve worked through things with God by house-sitting for friends.  Compared to my busy, noisy house, the quiet loneliness of an empty house is enticing.  I have any number of getaways at which I can stop in the midst of errands, rebel against tyrannical schedules, and take time to pray.  The library has a walk around the outside where I do lots of energetic discussion with God.  And I have a membership to the center for evolutionary propaganda in our state, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science – which if you filter the comments about Darwin, evolution, adaptation, ancestry, etc. is a very peaceful place to focus on God’s marvelous creativity and design. 

 

But to kneel and pray, to sing out loud, to sway to the chorus of faith scarcely held silent in rocks and trees and hills, one needs to be alone.  To cry out to God about the confusion of life in the world, lifting up specific names of friends and situations – essentially to do anything sufficiently open as to derive any conclusions – privacy is important.  Time is important. 

 

Beyond that, though, there is the daily remembrance that God is there.  I need to be aware of His presence, leaning on Him for every good work that He prepared for me to do.  Where does my help come from, my peace, my joy, my attention to the needs of the world for a reason for the hope that I have – if not from Him?  Does He not deserve my every breath, all my worship? 

 

Yet again, God did not call us only to a list of works.  What we do is an overflow of our relationship with Him.  As though while walking with God, He lifts a table by own end and says, “Here, grab that end.”  When I was little I would help my sister rearrange our room.  (She still rearranges her room an average of five times a year.)  I love to help and all, but I know full well that while she was investing all her strength in her end of dressers and beds and mattresses, I was only the balance point, contributing very little strength to the operation.  This is what it’s like when I join God in work. 

 

To quote from page 5 of Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World, ‘ “The better part!” I say to God in the midst of my own whirl of activity.  “You mean there’s more?  I have to do more?” 

‘No, no, comes the answer to my tired heart.  Jesus’ words in Luke 10 are incredibly freeing to those of us on the performance treadmill of life. 

‘It isn’t “more” he requires of us. 

‘In fact, it may be less.’

 

The same point was drawn out of John 6 in a sermon I heard when visiting a friend’s church plant this month.  We were in John 6, and it reminded me of a blog post I did last year, This Grace is Made for Walking. 

 

Verse 24 says the people went seeking for Jesus. 

 

Jesus reveals their true motivation in verse 26: they wanted Jesus so that he would feed them again.  Rather than eating of the bread of life, desiring Jesus Himself, which would leave them filled forevermore, they were looking for little doses of temporary food. 

 

Verse 27 says that the food that endures unto everlasting life is what the Son of man shall give unto you.  Give.  Eternal life, the satisfaction of a relationship with God, is a gift. 

 

But in verse 28, the people respond, “What shall we do, that we might work the works of God?”  They still haven’t gotten the point.  What shall we do?  Do?  Work? 

 

Verse 29 contains Jesus’ refutation, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent.”  The work is belief.  The work is a gift.  The life is a gift.  Jesus was sent.  He is near to those who would seek Him. 

 

The pastor compared this to Galatians 2:21, “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” 

 

We neither come to God by works, nor follow Him by works.  The work of God is that we believe on Jesus.  This is the food that endures unto eternal life. 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

Read Full Post »

« Newer Posts - Older Posts »