Monthly Archives: February 2014

Jean Jean the Drama Queen

Do you remember when the Jerry Springer show first came out?  It was a circus side show, staged drama for entertainment.   Some 25 years later, unfortunately the unproductive and dysfunctional chaos has become more of a norm.  Reality shows and raunchy sit com’s have grown out of that genre and have only reinforced the negativity, cut throat rivalries and sarcastic meanness.

Drama is characterized by exaggeration, manipulation, chaos, and pot stirring.  It can produce adrenaline, helping people find the drive to get through the day, a reason and a purpose that they might not normally have.  It can be a diversion from something in the drama prone person’s life, like going to work or cleaning the house.  It can also redirect attention from something that is amiss in one’s life so that others are so busy focusing on a perceived oppressor that they might not notice the unattended to matters in the drama queen’s own life.  Drama as a way of life can also be a way of replicating an adult’s childhood. If arguing, fighting, name calling and chaos was the way things were, then that’s what people get used to.  They then recreate it, because if things were calm and peaceful, they might have to get to work instead of having an excuse not to move ahead on more productive affairs.

drama queenThe players in the queen’s court includes a victim and a rescuer–along with a villain, real or imagined.  Some people find their identity by being a rescuer and an enabler.  It creates a need and a meaning that they might not normally possess or discover.  In order to be a rescuer, you have to have victims that need protected and stuck up for.  The more people that depend on you, the bigger your tiara is.  As for the victim, if it’s always someone else’s fault, then the victim never needs to change or do          something herself–other than criticize the rescuer if it didn’t work.

Anger is mixed in there.  Anger at villains, at circumstances, at the rules of life.  And then bitterness sets in, and it can be a way of life, thinking that you’ve always drawn the short straw.  That’s when meanness sets in and takes over, with no regard to those who get in the way.

“You can’t handle the truth” was Jack Nicholson’s line in “A Few Good Men.”  Perhaps the truth is that you haven’t worked your way out of a hole, or made some choices that can be learned from, rather than that you’ve been cheated and mistreated by an evil empire.  Another thing that is hard to handle is taking responsibility for our own choices and actions and letting others do the same.  It is easy to shift blame and never lift a productive finger.

Emotionally healthy adults have no need or desire for drama.  Drama is a deflection, it is divisive, and it is dysfunctional.  It is one TV show that I do NOT want to participate in or watch.

Spiritually speaking, in the book of Nehemiah there were two guys in particular that tried to stop a mission from God with drama.  Their names were Sanballat and Tobiah.  They tried a variety of tactics to keep  Nehemiah and his workers from working on rebuilding the wall that surrounded Jerusalem.  It was a mission of utmost importance, because Jerusalem and the Temple were and still are the apple of God’s eye.  It’s the place where Jesus will one day sit on the throne and be the King of the world.  There has always been a fight over that spot and there always will be until Satan is defeated.

Sanballat and Tobiah were simply tools of Satan’s to attempt to taunt, distract, disrupt, threaten, intimidate and divert to keep the wall from being built.  Nehemiah, led by God, had his men build with a tool in one hand and a weapon in the other.  He stood on truth and reminded himself, the Jews and his enemies of those truths.  He said “I have important job to do,” and wouldn’t be deterred or distracted away from it.  God gave him discernment to see behind their plots and didn’t get pulled into their insults or attempts to cause him to sin.

Nehemiah called out “God, strengthen my hands,” in Nehemiah 6:9.  Strengthen my hands, give me discernment and help me to run, not walk from drama and the grace to aptly stand and not be lured to sin when Mean Jean strikes.

2 Corinthians 2:11 “We would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs.”


The Shield of Faith

I recently did an Awana counsel time related to this topic.  The theme for the night was “Bean Bag Barrage,” and most of the time the kids’ message goes along with the theme.  I had the picture of the storms of life being a barrage at times, so I had a garbage can lid as my shield.  I had given about 50 bean bags to the kids and adults, scattered throughout the audience and had them poised to assault me with them.  I explained what barrage meant and said that life can be like a bean bag barrage, which was my cue for them to try to hit me with them.

shield of faithNot one hit me.  Most missed, but some hit my can lid shield.  The last one made a “zing” sound as it ricocheted.  I was not afraid and I stood undaunted with my lid in hand.  I then talked about the shield of faith in the armor of God, and told how to use it.  When faced with the fiery darts and arrows of Satan, our enemy, we can call out with faith verses that reflect the saving and protecting nature of God.  Verses suffice like “I will never leave you or forsake you,” when scared.  Or, “God is my refuge and strength in trouble, a very present help.”  “The name of the Lord is a strong tower.  The righteous run into it and are saved.”  I can call the verses out loud even,  pray them or memorize them to have in my heart.

I had a rough day at work today.  I helped a person who needed help, but I could get repercussions from it maybe looking like I took sides where legal action is involved.  I am braced for a battle.  But I stand on the verse in Luke 11:42 where Jesus scolded the Pharisees for tithing to the tee, “and neglect justice and the love of God.”  If I do end up with a ruffle, I will take it with courage because I do not want to neglect justice (helping the powerless) and love.

Another person tried to bully me into not enforcing a policy and I calmly stood my ground, telling her that it is not an unjust or cruel policy and others seem to have no problem following it for the years that it’s been in place.  When she threatened I responded firmly and calmly that she can choose to go elsewhere.  It could have Facebook and other public ripples, but I stand on Psalm 31:20, “In the cover of Your presence You hide them from the plots of men; You shield them in Your shelter from the strife of tongues.”  Oh God, hide me from her plots and shield me from the strife of drama and division.

Finally, I am reminded of Ephesians 6:12 that “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, and cosmic powers of this present darkness,” 18 “praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”  2 Corinthians 10:3-5 tells us that our weapons are divinely powerful for destroying strongholds and arguments.  I will attempt to do so with the shield of faith in hand.


Why Do We Go to Church?

Hebrews 10:24-15 “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

That’s like a command to go to church, and one of the main reasons it gives is so we can motivate and encourage one another to live the Christian life.  The question occasionally comes up about whether or not someone is ‘being fed’ by what takes place, or why a person or a family doesn’t attend much or at all anymore.

I have been in the habit of attending church and being involved on a weekly basis for decades.  But in the last few years, perhaps just the older I get, I have this tug of war about staying home and just spending some quality time alone with God as opposed to the face time, assembly line routine that may or may not be significant.

So then the question that popped up in my mind as I sit home on a Sunday morning, ‘What feeds me?’  I know what doesn’t feed me, and I have come up with a few things that do.  Maybe I’m different than anyone else, maybe not.  But here’s my little list.

  • What feeds me is to learn and to apply truths of Scripture to what’s going on in my life and in life in general.  My head swims with work stuff, of grinding out a tough winter, of US and world news and events, wanting my life to count, and intersecting with happenings of the people around me.  It takes time to process those things as a group, but sitting in a bigger Sunday school room with people coming in and out and watching a video or having one person face the rest of the class doesn’t get to those things.  That set up doesn’t help to really hash through the topic, the Scripture or life stuff.  You see people but there’s not much past that.  If we’re supposed to encourage one another and spur one another on to love and good deeds, we need a format to do that.
  • What feeds me is getting into the Word and letting the Word get into me.  I don’t like three points picked out of a passage of Scripture, sprinkled with Internet stories.  I do like digging into God’s story and letting the Spirit apply it to our story.  I like pastors and teachers who have been grabbed and gripped by God’s truths and then is helping us to be grabbed and gripped too.  The Word is living and active and it pierces to our motives and intentions.  Spread the word!
  • What feeds me is praying and asking for God’s working power to show up and change us.  It says in Acts 13:2 “While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said ‘set apart Barnabus and Saul for the work I have called them.'” True worship is listening to the voice of God, not programming out a set number of songs. Worship is singing songs of praise, but it also involves praying, more than just the offertory prayer, waiting on God and doing what He says.  We’re so American, and it’s hard to avoid that.

So what would my church look like?  Maybe Sunday School being more of an intentional small group, led by people who know how to teach, listen, pray and guide.  Maybe all the groups study the same Scripture together, like working through the New Testament and then we get together and share what we learned, facilitated by the Pastor who then has a teaching time.  Maybe we sing and pray at tables in the sanctuary, and not rows of chairs to enable that small and large group praying.  Whatever it is, it would be aimed at teaching, encouraging, applying, equipping and listening to God and to others more.

 


What’s it all about, Alphie?

I was at a memorial service this last week, filled with thoughts–much like everyone else, I’m sure.  It’s one thing if it’s someone old or with a lingering illness, but this one was sudden and much too soon.  A bar was in the back of the gathering place, so toasts and shots were mixed in with thoughts of what a nice guy he was, what a good dad and someone who smiled a lot and would engage in small talk at the rink…

I don’t know if I have a picture of what my funeral would look like, trying not to think of that.  Trying not to imagine his wife and kids and the days that lay ahead.  But I can’t shake the questions and thoughts of his life and my own.  So I sit and page through my Bible to see verses of what God says a long or a short life is really all about and how He says we should spend our time, added together to make our lives.

Psalm 39:4 “O Lord, Make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!”  Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

Ephesians 5:15 Look carefully then how you walk, not as the unwise or foolish or drunk, but be filled with the Spirit  Luke 11:42 Don’t tithe to the tee but neglect justice and the love of God

Jeremiah 9:23 “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom or the strong man in his strength, or the rich man in his riches, but let him who boasts, boast that he knows God.”

The verses go on and so do my thoughts.  In the end, it probably doesn’t even matter what my funeral looks like, it’s about what my life looked like or was really like, not even how it just looked on the surface.  And it doesn’t matter what others say about me, it matters what God says about me.  If I know Jesus and He knows me, I’m good.  If I love God, love others, practice justice and kindness, store up my treasures in Heaven by giving instead of hoarding and impacting others for eternity, perhaps I can truly ‘Rest in peace.”


Complaining About the Weather and My Job

Along with thinking about what the Holy Spirit of God has done in my life and wanting to write about it, which is why I wrote the previous post on my thumb being healed, I’ve been thinking about how the Bible is alive and at work in my everyday life.

Complainer

It’s been cold here, really cold.  Like not above zero for days on end and there have been lots of        disruptions because of plunging wind chills and snowstorms.  It’s getting old.  So is my job.  It’s    more stressful than it’s ever been, with more demands than time.  Yuck.  I plot escape routes in my head, mainly about how to spend less, invest more, get debt paid off and then to walk away    from it all.  But no end in the immediate sight.

Then I was reading in Psalm 78, where God reminds them of all of things He did for the Jews.      He performed wonders, divide d the Red Sea, led them with a cloud and fire, split rocks in the wilderness and caused streams to flow.  What did the Israelites do in response?  They grumbled!  They didn’t say ‘thank you.’  They just kept asking for something different, something more or threatening to revert, retreat and head back to Egypt.

Verses 17-20 tells us that God didn’t pat them on the back and provide a counseling group or a pity party.  No, He viewed it as sinning against Him, rebelling and testing God in their hearts by demanding the food they craved.  When they complained, they spoke against God.  Did God ignore it because they were in a pinch?  NO.  When God heard He was full of wrath because they did not believe in Him or trust in His saving power.

Gulp.  Am I sinning, rebelling, testing and speaking against God, not believing in His goodness, His provisions of a job and weather at His bidding, and not trusting in His sufficient grace?  Am I not thankful for my warm house, awesome husband, reliable car, good job and lots of good people around me?  Do I provoke God’s wrath?

Forgive me God for being a whiner.  Give me a thankful heart that is filled with Your joy that overflows.


My Thumb

So, this life in the Spirit is a work of God.  His appearance in our lives may come in expected places, others–not so much.  I had been schooled by people who believed that all signs and wonders ended at the close of the Apostolic age. In college, the people that I knew that were Pentecostal, or the new word (late 70’s) Charismatic, seemed to be kind of flaky in their walk with Jesus.  They were up and down and not very credible in their approach.  God was at work in my life in ways that were clear and significant.  But I didn’t attribute them to the work of the Holy Spirit.

I worked at a camp in northern Ontario for four summers in the 80’s.  In the the third summer, I was behind a bench in some sort of tickle contest with a camper.  Sitting on the bench was someone pounding her feet into the floor, fast and hard.  My hand got under her foot and my thumb got kicked backward straight into my wrist, in a direction thumbs are never supposed to go.  Before I got it away from the stomping heel, my thumb had been hit a few times.  My palm swelled like I was holding a baseball from a hemotoma.  I couldn’t move my thumb back and forth more than a tenth of an inch, even a month later.  The camp doctor said that I would need physical therapy.  That wasn’t going to happen, without insurance and in transition.  images-12

I flew into Chicago and a friend met me.  I spent the night catching up with her and her husband and she was to drive me to the Greyhound station the next morning.  We got out of their apartment later than I was comfortable with, and I missed my bus.  As we sat at the bus station, drinking coffee and killing an hour, I told Patti my thumb story, showing her how I still couldn’t move it.  The next bus would head to Milwaukee and then to Madison and to my parents and would put me home about six hours later than the first bus would have.

When I got settled into my seat, headed in the wrong direction, I thought “I might as well get out my Bible.  I’ve got time to spare.”  Within a minute the guy behind me popped his head up and began to get into a conversation about the Bible “You reading a Bible?”  I invited him to my seat, not knowing what he was up to.  Here he was a Lutheran pastor from Statton Island, NY and God was doing all kinds of healings in his church related to the Holy Spirit.  I began to debate him about the Holy Spirit, flipping back and forth in my Bible.  He just started telling stories of how God used him to see people healed.

I stopped debating and just listened, while a debate battled in my head.  “Just listen,” I told myself.  And then a question crept up in the back of my brain, “Could God heal…”  “Stop!” I told myself.  “Don’t put God in a box, telling Him He has to heal my thumb.”  All of the sudden, while the guy was talking, it was as though a knife was pulled from the joint between my thumb and first finger.  I started moving my thumb back and forth, snapping my fingers and pushing down on the previously painful joint.  It was healed.

Before I could even tell the guy what happened, he got up and said, “This is my stop.  It was nice talking to you.”  And he was gone.  And I sat there with a healed thumb.  Me, who thought that God doesn’t do things like that anymore.  I was 25 and God had a lot more to show me about this life in the Spirit.  Now He had my attention.  


Flesh vs. Spirit

The Apostle Paul was a guy that had achieved a lot before he met Jesus.  He was a Pharisee and headed to the images-11Sanhedrin, kind of the Supreme Court of the Jews.  He was good with words, smart, well studied and probably well off.  And when he went on a tare against the Christians who were perverting the Jewish faith he thought he was doing God a favor.

But, enter Jesus and everything changed.  The hunter became the hunted.  The man who could do it all himself learned that the more it was about him, the less Jesus’ power worked through him.  He introduced this grace all over the Mediterranean.  The Gentiles probably grabbed a hold of grace easier than the Jews.  But the Jews were so used to following the law to be acceptable to God, to doing good things and looking good.  In Galatia, they went after Jesus at first, but then either drifted back to works of the flesh or were convinced by persuasive people who came from Jerusalem.

Paul wrote to the Galatians rebuking and pleading not to go back to the flesh after having begun in the Spirit.  He laid out just what the works of the flesh produce: idolatry, sexual sins, outbursts of anger, competition, striving, pride and jealousy.  But the works of the Holy Spirit in our lives are things like peace, self control, goodness, patience and unity.

We do the same thing the Galatians did when we do not walk in the Spirit.  It is so easy to deny the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives, thinking that He’s the part of the trinity that is on hold.  So then He gets quenched and ignored.  The other way we do it is simply by doing our own thing, not from consulting with God, not dealing with sin habits and patterns, and not being in the Word to get the Spirit activated on a day to day basis.

In Romans 8 we find that those who live according to the flesh cannot please God and are hostile to Him.  They are not led by God.  I don’t like to be around Christians who are out of step with the Spirit.  Their timing is just off.  Everything is about them and they are cold toward spiritual things.  I don’t like to be around myself when I’m out of step.  Things fall apart and I am about my business, not God’s.

Romans 8:2 “The law of the Spirit of life has set us free from the law of sin and death.”


Lightning Bugs

 

When I was a kid growing up in farm country, summer nights included chasing lightning bugs and putting them in jars.  They were plentiful.  My siblings and I would even smear them on us and play ball tag in the pitch dark, glowing for a brief while with the glow of the bug innards.  That’s kind of gross, but it was a lot of fun.   I was fascinated with lightning bugs and I still am.  Isn’t God creative that He would put lights inside of bugs and have them fly around to light the sky like little stars?

Now here’s another thought:  The life of Jesus in me should make me like a lightning bug.  I should glow with His life.  In 2 Corinthians 4:10 Paul wrote: “…Always carrying about in my body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made known in my body.”  Hmmm.  Having the life of Jesus show through me.  To know God and to show God.

In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul talks about the ministry of the Spirit and compares us with Moses.  He had a ministry of the law, of death and his face glowed when he went up on Mt. Sinai.  The people were afraid of Him, because God’s presence was awesome–it brought fear because of God’s holiness and the idea that no one can look on God and live because of our sinfulness.  Verse 12 writes “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face.”  In 3:18 it says, “We all, with unveiled face, are beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.  Now this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

The idea is that Moses glowed from God’s glory, and so should we.  We glow from the inside because the Spirit of the living God lives inside of us.  To those who are friends of God, this glow should be an attractive thing that draws them to God because they see Jesus in us.  It should also transform us and make us more like Jesus the more time we spend with Him and allow His transforming life to take root in us.

This life of Jesus should be like the fountain that gushes from our inmost being, like Jesus cried out in John 7.  How does He do that?  THROUGH HIS SPIRIT.

Jesus is alive in me through His Spirit.  Now that’s something that most evangelicals tend to stay away from.  Some believe that the Spirit went dormant after the Apostolic age.  Well meaning preachers and teachers stay away from teaching and thinking about the Spirit because they don’t want to be heretics.  But yet Scripture would be the heretic, if we just stick to what it says.  Check out some of the verses about what life in the Spirit does for us:

  • Romans 8:1-17.  The Spirit of life has set us free from sin and death.  If I keep living apart from the Spirit, walking instead in the flesh, I am hostile to God and cannot please Him.  In Galatians 3:3 Paul called them foolish and bewitched for beginning in the Spirit and then going back to living the Christian life by the flesh.
  • Ephesians 1:19; 3:20; Acts 1:8.  The Spirit empowers us, with the same power that raised Jesus from the dead.  We can’t mobilize the church of God without the Spirit of God.  If we try to accomplish the Great Commission without the Holy Spirit, we resort to natural means, like appealing to emotions, guilt, and eye appealing programs and we’re no different than the world.  Zechariah 4:4 pleads “Not by might, not by power, but by My Spirit says the Lord of Hosts.”
  • Matthew 3:16; 4:1.  The Spirit at work in us is what enables us to overcome temptation.  Jesus was driven by the Spirit into the wilderness.  When He went head with Satan, He quoted Scripture, which is where we usually place the victory secret.  But get this–Satan quoted Scripture too!  It’s the Spirit that gives us the power to walk away even when we know what the right thing is.

We are told to walk in the Spirit, be filled with the Spirit and to be empowered by the Spirit.  (Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 5:18; Ephesians 3:20)  If we don’t rely on the Spirit, explaining Him away and ignoring this glorious member of the Trinity, then we are relying on the flesh.  In 2 Timothy 3:5 Paul describes people as “having the appearance of godliness but denying its power.”  That’s us without the Holy Spirit.  We’re like lightning bugs that stop glowing.  We are flesh driven then and Galatians 5 tells that the works of the flesh include jealousy, outbursts of anger, competition.  Ephesians 5:30 admonishes us to not grieve the Holy Spirit and 1 Thessalonians 5:19 not to quench the Spirit.

 Oh may we glow with the life of the Spirit, giving us the power to overcome temptation, to fulfill the Great Commission and to be transformed to be more like Jesus.  May we be a fountain that gushes from deep inside that overflows and shows forth the life of Jesus to others who desperately need Him.


A Must Watch–David Pierce

 

https://vimeo.com/15289008

 

This is a video of a guy named David Pierce.  He is from Minneapolis originally, but now travels throughout the world and goes to places we would consider taboo.  He has a punk band and reaches dark, dark places with the good news of Jesus.  He is speaking to a group somewhere in the USA.

 

The first part is introduced by the pastor of the group.  You can fast forward to about the 4th minute, where David begins to share what Jesus has done and wants to do.  It is inspiring and challenging.


Do Nothing and Do Everything

In Philippians 2, Paul has two contrasting imperatives, or commands, tucked into his writings.  They’ve shouted at me lately.  They are, as the title says Do Nothing  and Do Everything.


1.  Do Nothing.  In verse 3-4, Paul writes “Do nothing out of selfish ambition and vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only after your own interests, but after the interests of others.”

That means we shouldn’t think that we could do that something better than someone else or that we really know better than them.  We shouldn’t have that mindset.  We shouldn’t just seek our own agendas each day, but others.  And we ought not do things for the credit or be upset when we think we don’t get the credit we deserve.  It’s not for show, like a talent show.  That’s a fruit of the flesh, a performance mentality.  Instead, we’re to look to please Jesus and leave it at that.

Later on in verses 19-21, Paul writes of Timothy that he didn’t have anyone else to send to check on the Philippians because “I have no one else who takes a genuine interest in your welfare.  For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Would someone write that of us?  Would we be so busy tending to our own interests that we don’t leave a margin of time and money to look out after the needs of others?  If we’re looking out for Kingdom interests, then we will be able to sort out which ones are truly important to invest our time in. So when others are hurting, sick, alone and struggling, it is our business.

2.  Do Everything.  In Philippians 2:14-16 Paul admonishes them further, saying “Do everything without complaining or arguing so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.”

Perhaps he could have added criticizing to that list, which is a twin sister of complaining.  When we eliminate complaining, arguing and criticizing from our weapons of choice when things don’t go the way we want them to, then we really stand out as someone different.  Are there people who you like to see coming your way because they refresh your soul?  They listen without interrupting, they find uplifting things to talk about and they ask how you’re doing, remembering the things that are important to you and inquire about them.  In contrast, are there people that come toward you in the grocery aisle and you find yourself subconsciously avoiding them?  Perhaps it’s because they’re always negative, tearing others down and talking about themselves, unaware of what’s going on around them?

I certainly don’t want to be in the Debbie downer category for social skills’ sake, but also for Jesus’ sake.  If I do everything without complaining and arguing, then I’m living out Jesus in me, at work in me, transforming me from who I’m inclined to be to who He’s making me to be.

So, let’s do nothing and then….do everything