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The Impossible February 22, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep.
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At a conference this past weekend, I learned that the rabbi’s of the first century were already talking about the concept of the kingdom of heaven when Jesus came on the scene. To them, the kingdom of heaven started back when the Israelites were brought out of Egypt. The essence of this ‘kingdom’ was God’s finger (power) breaking into an impossible situation, a declaration that he reigned, a time in the desert to teach obedience to the king, and a promise that with obedience, they would be a kingdom of priests. Jesus taught these very same principles in that he came to us while were dead in our transgressions, we confess him as Lord, we are taught to obey by the Holy Spirit, and we are promised eternal life reigning with him.

My point today is that the kingdom of heaven begins with God breaking into the impossible. We are to seek first the kingdom of God, and yet we tend to avoid the impossible. We’ll be nice and generous in situations where it seem like our help will do some good. But if the situation looks hopeless, we will often, at best, offer up a half-hearted prayer that God will intervene, but we rarely commit ourselves, fearing that we’ll fall flat on our face, embarrassed. If his kingdom is found at the intersection of the impossible and God’s power, why are we seeking it in the safe corridors of our churches and the easy service opportunities that make us feel good? We’ll never find it there.

Father, give us the faith to seek out the impossible, to purposely get involved in situations where only your power can make a difference…help us position ourselves to see your kingdom established here on earth. May your will be done, your kingdom come!

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Discipleship February 20, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep.
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I went to a conference this past weekend on ‘walking as Jesus walked’. Ray Vanderlaan, the speaker, spoke about the Jewish concept of discipleship (among many other things). He taught that to a Jewish person, being a disciple is all about becoming like their rabbi in every way, that being a disciple consumes their every waking thought and takes priority over everything else.

I was thinking about how part of being a Christian is being a disciple of Jesus, wanting to be like him. And then I stopped myself. That is a scary thing I just said. I think that we’ve relegated being like Jesus to just one of a whole list of things that are involved in being Christians rather than being the entire reason for our existence. How did that happen?  If we were truly his disciples than getting to know him would be the reason we got up every morning, the guage by which we measured our success, the rubric by which we determined our actions. And yet I think for us, being a Christian sometimes becomes more about getting to the right meetings, putting in enough volunteer hours, doing good deeds (because the are good, not necessarily with a concious thought to whether Jesus would have done them), reading our Bible, listening to Christian music and so on. Its about being part of the Western Christian culture not about being like the strangely out of place, passionate, uncompromising, self-sacrificing, full of life, loving, Scripture-filled, generous, challenging rabbi named Jesus Christ.

What do you think? Maybe its just me who has elevated being Christian-like over being Christ-like. I’d love to hear how you actively pursue being like your rabbi?

Chimp Stone Age February 13, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Life.
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Okay…there’s ridiculous and then there’s ridiculous.

I just read a news article today in the Globe and Mail that reported an archaeological dig that found evidence that Chimps used stones to crack open nuts 4,300 years ago. Scientists are apparently all excited because using stones for tools was thought to be only a humand thing and thus this points to a common ancestor.

Using stones to crack nuts? I think there are animals that are much more sophisticated than that and we don’t credit them with their own ‘stone age’. For example, in a class the other day we learned about birds that use a small twig to dig seeds out of tree cavities that are too deep for them to reach with their beaks.

I’m sorry…I’m just not getting what is so exciting about this ‘discovery’ or how it connects chimps and humans to a common ancestor.

Envy Evangelism February 6, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep.
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I was talking with someone today who is not a Christian. The content of the discussion is not important, but I realized something as I walked away. Too often we try to convince people that what they have is not good…the traditional ‘sin is bad and ruins your life’ kind of argument. But there is no real way to convince anyone of that because sin is very often pleasurable. I thought of a parallel in that I know that eating too much chocolate is bad for me, but repeatedly telling me that is not going to diminish my desire for it one little bit. Only increasing my desire for health or weight loss or some other food alternative is going to succeed in making me give up my chocolate. Do we offer anything to people that would make them desire what we have as Christians more than what they have as non-Christians? For example, we will try to convince them that sex outside of marriage is wrong and has all sorts of negative consequences rather than showing them the blessings and safety of God’s plan. I’m not saying that we don’t comment on the good side, only that the emphasis often falls on the negative.

For me, I’ve recognized that this is because I do not operate with 100% conviction that following God is super-duper wonderful. For me, the motivation for my obedience is still too often that of fear of punishment rather than a deep-seated confidence in God’s love and his goodness. Until I let myself fully experience the joy and security of complete dependence on God, my persuasion of others will come across as stilted and insincere, pat sayings with no real substance. And because I am a person of integrity, if I cannot present the goodness of God with conviction, I evade the topic and resort to negative arguments, attempts to create within other disatisfaction with their own lives rather than an envy for mine.

God, continue to teach me, to cause the wonder, the privilege of a life as your child to well up within me and overflow, drawing people to you.

Have you experienced any similar struggle with evangelism? What approach do you typically use and how has it been received?

Psalms 51 February 5, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep.
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I read the phrase today in Psalm 51 which says “you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place”.

Over the last couple of weeks I have been crying out to God for more faith, recognizing that I must go past head knowledge to a deep seated conviction…and that I’m not going to get there by ‘thinking’ more. And I have sensed him answering me. There are certain areas (not a lot…but a few) where I have a growing peace and confidence in God and his work in my life, conclusions I seem to have come to but I can’t trace the logical deduction process.

This verse in Psalms 51 seemed to synthesize that experience with my comments in an earlier post about the difference between fact and truth (ie. fact – walking on water is impossible, truth – Jesus did it; fact – I feel very insecure and alone at times, truth – God is always with me). I have long sought truth both because I want to know what’s up, but also because I want to please God. But truth is an ‘inner being’ thing, not a head thing. I’ve been seeking the right thing, but in the wrong place.

I’m not dismissing the need to be intellectually responsible and investigate things, but I’m beginning to grasp the idea that the facts I hold in my mind do not equal truth. Facts must be transformed into truth in my spirit, my ‘inner parts’ – and only God can do that.