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Feed Your Discontent? July 24, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep.

I was in the Christian bookstore the other day and skimmed a book by Bill Hybels. I can’t remember the title (sorry), but the theme was figuring out what God has called you to do. His basic premise was that most of us have something that irritates us, some injustice that just totally drives us nuts. Some people eventually get so fed up, that they do something, anything to help bring change in that area. Other people try to alleviate the discomfort by avoiding anything that might stir up that angst. (For example, some people might find that the plight of the homeless really touches them and whenever they hear of government decisions to reduce support to shelters or other things that would negatively affect this population, they get really angry. So…they could choose to get involved and advocate for the homeless or they could turn off the news station).  There are all sorts of issues which affect each individual differently. Something that gets you all stirred up might not even be on my radar screen. Hybel’s challenge was to not avoid those things that create discomfort, but to actually feed our area of discontent, expose ourself to that issue, until it drives us to get involved and that as we get involved, we will find that we walk into our calling, the area in which we feel most fulfilled.

I skimmed another book, a biography by the creator of Veggie Tales, that offered a somewhat different perspective. After the company filed for bankruptcy due to an alleged accusation that was later dropped, God brought this man to a place of stillness before him, teaching him that all his years of driven service had been focused on trying to please God through works and not about getting to know God in relationship. The man (I forget his name) decided that from then on, he wasn’t going to create any long term plans but simply seek God for each decision. He has since started a new company for which he refused to develop the typical 5 yr business plan. He says Christians have no business trying to determine things that far in advance. Instead, he and his employees set aside time to pray together about decisions and seek God for ideas.

In some ways, these two accounts seem opposed to one another, but in other ways, they don’t. They may just be puzzle pieces from different parts of the big picture. What do you think?  How valuable is either piece of advice? Have you experienced an area of discontent, a striving to please God rather than know him, a seeking him first and not worrying about the future?  How have you found balance between doing and being?


The Joy of the Lord July 24, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep, God.

I came across an article written by John Paul Jackson of Streams Ministries that really touched and challenged me. I’m going to paste a portion of the article here and then comment on it below.

“Has anyone ever come up to you and tried to encourage you with the following verse? It sounds like a psalm, but it’s actually found in Nehemiah. The joy of the Lord is your strength. You can find this verse all over the Christian world — greeting cards, refrigerator magnets, church bulletins — but what does it actually mean? More specifically, does it really mean what most of us think it does?

In different ways, many of us take this verse to be the Christian life standard: “I will be joyful. The joy of the Lord will be my strength even if it kills me!” When taken to an extreme, this belief literally will kill you because it doesn’t allow you to be real, process pain or genuine joy, grow spiritually or truly know your Father.

Some of us assume it’s a command: “I’m supposed to be joyful all the time, and if I’m not, something must be wrong with me. I have to try harder, because clearly I’m not measuring up.”

Both of these assumptions are entirely wrong. Jesus does not expect you to be joyful all the time. He’s been here; He knows what living on earth is like. He knows it’s hard, and He understands why we fail sometimes. Most of us don’t comprehend this last aspect especially — God actually understands why I did what I did? You mean, He’s not sitting up in Heaven with a judgment stick, ready to sever our relationship the minute I even think the wrong thing?

Not at all. He knows why that step in particular made you stumble. He knows what you’re going through. He knows the thoughts, breaths and nuances of your heart — and loves you. That brings us to what the verse actually means.

The joy of the Lord will be my strength. It’s not that some heightened level of my joy will be my strength; it’s that God’s joy will be my strength. His Fatherly joy. He is so proud of us. We know that God invented laughter, but most of us don’t understand how easily He is amused, how easily He loves and how easily we delight Him.

Someday, when we get to Heaven, He’s going to pop in the DVD of our lives, and we’ll get to sit there and watch it with Him. Yes, we’ll have to give an accounting of what we’ve done wrong, but we forget the other side of that! We forget how He loves us; we forget His joy over our existence.

As He plays the DVD of our lives, He’ll say, “Oh, I loved it there when you did that, son! That blessed My heart so much, daughter! Let Me show you how great that was.” He’ll pull up a dual screen. “Here’s what you were doing, and this is what happened in Heaven when you did it.”

We will get to see what went on in Heaven when we did what we thought were small, insignificant acts on earth. Why did God ever have me do that? we wonder in our day-to-day lives here on earth, only to hear the Father say one day in Heaven, “Wow! Oh! I loved that.”

We bring a huge, galactic level of joy to our Father. We delight Him in ways that are humanly impossible to understand. That is what the joy of the Lord means, and that’s why it is our strength. When we walk in the awareness of His joy, we won’t be able to keep from rejoicing ourselves. This joy is what gives us the strength to endure.”

Wow, huh!?  I read that after a very discouraging day when I felt like I was totally not measuring up, not getting it, falling into the same old patterns and mindsets and unable to escape. I was fighting the familiar thought that God must get awfully frustrated with me.  When I read about how joyful God is, I struggled – I wanted to believe it but it wasn’t jiving with my current discouraged state of being. I started trying to justify my self-critical point of view by going to Old Testament stories about God’s wrath. But then I remembered a teaching I once heard or read that talked about how God’s wrath is just a mirror image of his love. It was his fierce love for the Israelites that drove him to eradicate anything and anyone who might contaminate them, tempt them away from Him. He knew the value of being in right standing with Him and therefore he, on their behalf, fought viciously to protect them. The same is true for us. From time to time we might catch a glimpse of God’s anger or feel just a touch of his wrath, but we must remember that it is not directed at us, but at the sin and the forces of evil that would seek to draw us away from him. The directive to ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’ is perhaps even truer of God and how he views us than it is of us and how we are to view those we witness to. God’s love you…God loves ME! …more than we/I can imagine. His desire for us to be free of everything that entangles us stems from a deep understanding of who we could be without all that junk holding us back, NOT from a frustration that we aren’t meeting some kind of standard. Its the difference between a coach who is totally frustrated at his teams’ performance because the city won’t supply them with the proper equipment and he longs to see each player reach their potential and win the victories he knows they could verus a coach who is angry at his teams’ performance because the players aren’t performing as good as he wants them to.

Obedience vs Honor July 24, 2007

Posted by amybeth in God.

I was once again contemplating the future and trying to make decisions about what my next step should be. As usual, I was bemoaning the fact that God’s direction isn’t clearer. Wouldn’t it be so much easier if God gave direct commands? I’d obey. I’d jump right to it.  This time God brought me up short.

Sure…anybody can obey commands out of allegiance, but how many respond to requests out of love. He brought to mind how, in obeying my parents, I’ll do everything they specifically tell me too, but when they ask for something extra or just hint at how something might make their life easier, I groan and usually try to get out of doing it or somehow justify how busy I am with other things. God challenged me that there is a difference between obedience and honor. I am obeying my parents out of duty but not honoring them out of love. Yowch…that was painful enough. But then he applied the same truth to my relationship with Him. In my recognition that he is God, I am willing to concede that he deserves my obedience. Yeesh…he’s God already. But my love has not deepened to the point where I desire to serve and honor him beyond the limits dictated by duty.

A while back, a speaker at our church made the statement that God is asking a lot of questions in this season…asking, not demanding. Another speaker that I heard a few weeks later gave an illustration of something God asked her to do and how he specifically told her that she didn’t have to.  I think God is trying to tell me that its time to move to another level in my relationship, to cultivate a love that will draw me to him and cause me to desire to honor him, to respond to his whispered requests, not just to his spoken commands.

Yeesh – Weird Family July 14, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Life.
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Okay…so I finish up a practice GRE test and emerge fom my room to tell my parents how I did. I fnd my mom in the TV room watching a DVD of an old Dr. Quinn episode that we rented from the library. I then go downstairs and find my dad at the kitchen table with his laptop watching another Dr. Quinn episode (different series). I’m sorry…something about my two parents in separate parts of the house both watching different episodes of the same series just struck me as funny.

So…as they say…if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.  I guess I’ll get out my laptop and watch an old TV series as well…however, I’m working my way through Full House season 4.  For being a ‘no-TV’ household, there’s certainly a lot of TV watching going on in our house tonight.  Weird : )

Preach it, Sister! July 10, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Deep, God, Life.
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Wow!  This past Sunday I was the speaker at my church.  I’ve never preached before. In fact, I don’t think I’ve shared beyond a 5 or 10 minute testimony. But there was definitely something I felt God wanted me to release and well, he opened up the opportunity. Its true that those he calls he equips, cuz amazingly, despite some nervousness over mechanical things like not bumping my lapel mic off, I was completely calm.  My cheeks didn’t even heat up like they normally do when I stand in front of people – nervous or not. I received a lot of positive feedback and my Pastor said that when he looked at faces, even those who didn’t normally respond looked as though they had really been challenged. Yay God!

Wanna know how it happened?  Well, on June 30 I went to the last session of the ‘Oh Canada!’ conference being held at TACF. What I heard there from a whole panel of national leaders about the destiny of Canada and what God is doing in our nation really excited me and I mentioned to my Pastor on Sunday that I’d like to share about it briefly. Well…as the service went on, he forgot. So, he said that I could share the next week.

No problem.  But as I was getting my thoughts together since I had the opportunity to bring a little more cohesion to all the pieces of information I’d heard, I decided to ask him how much time he wanted me to take. Well, he said he wasn’t going to preach anything…whatever was said was up to me.  Yikes!  He felt God telling him that there was a period of time over the summer where he was to have different people from the congregation bring the sermons and since I offered to share, well, I had just ended up being first! So suddenly, my visions of a 10 minute testimony type talk turned into a full-fledge sermon.

 But I think God wanted it that way because there were a few more events I participated in that week including a rally for theCall-Nashville and an 07-07-07 Celebration which provided the material for a solid challenge to awaken to what God was doing in the earth in this day.

Its very hard to sum up what I felt burning within in me – there was a reporting of what national prophetic voices were saying, a historical framework given to the moral decay in our society, a call to repentance and holiness like never before, and a challenge to examine the premises upon which we base our reality. Because I feel this was such an important word for this time and season, I’ve actually uploaded my notes here for anyone who may wish to view them. You can download them here: Oh Canada Notes

Comment on ‘Unreached’ July 2, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Uncategorized.
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For those who commented on the ‘Unreached‘ post, I’ve posted a response in the comments section. I realized after I wrote it that its pretty much a full length post and so I should make sure people know its there.

God’s Got a Crush on You July 2, 2007

Posted by amybeth in God.
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Have you ever smiled at young people falling ‘in love’ for the first time, or goodnaturedly chuckled at someone who has a crush on somone else?  The emotion, the optimism, the nervousness and careful posturing for attention.  The particular image I have in mind is of the person who has fallen head over heels in love with someone who doesn’t even know they exist, at least as a potential partner.  Often such a person is remarkably resilient to advice that their affection may never be reciprocated. They have an uncanny ability to interpret even the slightest gesture in their direction as indicated undying devotion. We look on such people with a measure of amusement, but at the same time, a measure of admiration for their resilience. In romance books, sometimes the pairing is of a rich man of character who falls in love with a poor peasant girl, or even a prostitute who refuses him due to feelings of unworthiness. In this case, we cheer the gentleman on and rave about his gallantry. I would imagine that in some ways we relate, longing for someone to pursue us with such persistent love, to persist in the demonstration of their affection despite our fears or hurts that cause us to pull away, to mask our own response with disdain or even anger. The woman on the receiving end often thinks she is saving the hero from himself, keeping him from making a horrible decision and uniting himself permantly with someone so undeserving.

 I heard a song the other night loosely based on the Song of Solomon that talked of God loving us even in our weakness, calling us who are dark, lovely. I wish I had written down the words because they went on, expressing the longing of God’s heart for us in such a poignant way. The picture I came away with was the one I painted above. God has a crush on us. He is in love with us. Its the kind of love that causes him to look beyond our station in life or the poverty of our appearance. Its the kind of love that causes him to persist despite our resistance, despite our protestations of unworthiness, despite our deep-seated hurts and misperceptions based on past experience that cause us to act out in rebellion and rejection of his love. Its the kind of love that is unfailingly optimistic, that sees the potential in us and the potential in his relationship with us. Its the kind of love that is eager to interpret any small gesture on our part towards him as profound movement in his direction, as evidence of our affection, our devotion for him.

I still struggle often with feeling God is impatient or disappointed in me. I get exasperated with my inability to ‘get it’ sometimes and project that emotion onto God. And yet this picture leaves no room for such a reality. Instead, it puts on God’s face, that ever-present, almost irritatingly cheerful grin of someone head over heels in love – undisuadeable, undiscourageable – with me!

King Kong July 2, 2007

Posted by amybeth in Life.
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Okay…I know I’m a bit behind the times, but I just watched the new King Kong last night.  Somehow I thought I remembered someone telling me it was really scary, almost gave them nightmares…so I was expectly to be duly terrified.  My mother was taking a nap in the next room and so I prepared myself to stifle any screams.

The first half was…interesting. A lot of what I felt were artificially intense moments. The natives on the island were just plain creepy.  And then the second half that portrayed the group’s rescue mission through the jungle…well, that was just downright hilarious…I mean seriously…weaving your way through a brontasaurous traffic pileup alongside a steep cliff edge and coming out alive! I hadn’t set myself to stifle any laughter and I woke my mother up with my hooting.  It was just so unbelievably extreme. 

Forgive me if I offend anyone, but I thought the movie would be better classed as a comedy! Did anyone else see it?