Thursday, December 16, 2010

In a Stable?

One of the great ironies about those who want to get back to the ‘true meaning of Christmas’ is that they usually are firm believers in the myths of Christmas. No, I’m not talking about Santa, nine reindeer and a sleigh full of toys. No need to look at obvious fantasy to find a myth, just look at any ‘nativity scene.’
The bible never says Jesus was born in a stable. In fact, an in-depth bible study, complete with understanding Matthew’s and Luke’s stories through the eyes of a first century Jewish Christian, will show you the fallacy of the stable myth.
When the angels told the shepherds that they would find the babe in a manger, they weren’t telling them to look for a barn, they were telling them to look for a peasant’s home. See, peasants’ homes in Judea had mangers in the entryway which was a little lower than the main living area. Almost everyone had at least a few sheep and goats. Most nights, they would bring their sheep and goats into that front entryway. In the morning, the town’s shepherds would gather up all the sheep and take them out to the field.
Bethlehem was a very small town. Those shepherds probably knew everyone in town. They knew who was pregnant, so they didn’t have much trouble finding the right house.
The purpose of that story was to show that the Messiah was a peasant, not a king. It was only the beginning of the ways he would be unforeseen even though he was long expected. That’s part of the true meaning of Christmas – our God is found in unexpected places.
The true meaning of Christmas isn’t about a mean innkeeper and finding room for Jesus in your heart. The inn is another myth of the Christmas story.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Origins of Christmas

One of the first things we need to understand about Christmas is that there is no biblical indication that God intended for us to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Remember? Most certainly! That’s why the story was told. But unlike the resurrection which is repeatedly talked about in the New Testament, the birth of Jesus is never mentioned outside of the nativity stories in Matthew and Luke. The early church remembered and celebrated the resurrection, but there is no indication in the bible that the birth of Jesus was to be celebrated.
There is extra-biblical evidence that Clement, one of the late first century church leaders, did encourage Christians to observe Christ’s birthday as a primary feast day, but whatever day that was has been lost in antiquity. Some early evidence actually placed the day of Jesus’ birth in the spring, some in the fall. It wasn’t until early in the fifth century that December 25th was finally accepted as the best tradition by most of the church.
The best guess for how we finally settled on December 25th is that the date is of pagan origin. The pagan winter festivals took place around that time. As Christianity spread from Rome up into Europe, many of the pagan festivals were substituted for Christian festivals.
These festivals, coinciding with the end of the year (since the shortest day of the year, the winter solstice, is on December 21, the sun was once again ascending, therefore it was a new year), were celebrated around the world. Many of them included swapped roles – the master became the servant of the slave – and exchanging gifts, as well as, of course, feasting. Many of our contemporary Christmas traditions are rooted in some of those ancient pagan winter festivals.Does all that mean we shouldn’t celebrate Christmas? Or does it mean that we need to be very careful when we preach about the ‘true meaning of Christmas’?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Jesus' Birth, or Christmas?

This is a fascinating time of year for me. I have to be very careful because I run the risk of getting myself in all kinds of trouble. See, I'm a Christian - bible-believing, tongue-speaking, dancing-in-worship Christian, and yet I don't see what all the fuss is about Christmas.

Truthfully, the Christian beliefs about Christmas have often left me more than a little confused. Why do we get so wrapped up in the traditions of man? If you stop to think about it and seriously consider it, that's what Christmas is, the traditions of man. The Word of God never says to celebrate Christmas. In fact, in all our talk about stables and innkeepers and gifts and room in your heart, we somehow lost the original messages that Matthew and Luke presented to their readers. To understand the bible as the Word of God, not just as historical literature. we must understand it as the original readers did. Only then can we apply it to our own lives.

So what was the original intent of the nativity stories? To understand that, you need to study the prophecies of the Old Testament. Then you will see that both Matthew's and Luke's primary intent was to show their readers how Jesus' birth had fulfilled some of the prophecies of the Messiah.

When was the last time you celebrated Christmas with an understanding of the true meaning of what the gospels were written to convey? Do you even know how that original intent affected the first century readers? If you don't, I purpose to you that you don't know the true meaning of Jesus' birth. You probably don't even know the true meaning of Christmas. Would you like to?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cruel vs. Kind

In my last blog, I mentioned that hurt and intentional cruelty are not necessarily the same thing. In fact, sometimes the kindest thing we can do is to "hurt" someone.
Take for instance, 1 Corinthians 5:5 "hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord." This was the case when Paul told the church to put a man out of the fellowship for sexual sins. That was definitely a hurtful act, but what was the potential payoff? "his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord." Which would have been more cruel, to let the man go on thinking everything was okay and only finding out when it was too late that his spirit was lost or to cause temporary pain that would result in eternal joy?
In the Christian church today, we want to be nice to everyone. We don't want to hurt people's feelings by correcting them. Sometimes we allow doctrinal errors to go unchallenged because we can't think of a nice way to correct someone in public.
Paul didn't worry about that. When Peter stopped followshipping with Gentile believers because they were uncircumcised, not only did Paul call him on it, but then he wrote about it for everyone to know what had happened. (Read Galatians. Who was Paul talking about in Galatians 5:12?) Maybe if the Church had a few more Pauls willing to challenge false teachings, even from other leaders, we'd see a lot more of the Holy Spirit's power at work today.
Of course, we have to make sure God is going to be glorified in all we do, and we need to know we're correct before we correct others. That's why we need to constantly be in the Word and be sharing what we've learned with others who will challenge us to know the truth, not encourage us to accept what's popular theology.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Teasing, Cruel or Kind?

Once again, I've allowed too much time to pass without blogging. It isn't because I have nothing to say! Ask my friends and family about that. They'll assure you that I always have something to say about everything. The problem is, what do I say to you here, in this forum?
The thing that comes to mind right now, which came up earlier this week in my class, is teasing. In my books, the characters tease each other. Some people are uncomfortable with the teasing, some find it perfectly normal. Is the teasing right or wrong?
In class we talked at some length about the teasing. The group was divided. It was an eyeopener when one of the women who was actually somewhat uncomfortable with the teasing between the characters, said that sometimes she wishes she had friends and family with whom she could tease like that. It would be incredible to have friends who know you well enough to tease you but love you well enough to never be cruel in the teasing. I have to say that it is! I have friends who tease me and are teased by me.
Sometimes their teasing acts as a reality check to see how I'm doing with becoming more Christ-like. Sometimes it's great to know they love me in spite of my faults. Never are they intentionally cruel to me. I know the difference because I know people who are intentionally cruel in their teasing.
And that was the final consensus in my class. Teasing, like anything, can be good or bad. The intention determines which. Anything done to be intentionally cruel is very bad.
But, hurt and intentional cruelty are two different things.
But lest this blog become too long, I'll need to pick up with that on another day. Maybe it'll even be less than a month before I blog again!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Cherished Ideas vs. The Bible

What to blog about? That's my problem. I have so many things to say, but I say them in the books I'm writing and in the class I teach, so a lot of times I don't have much to say when my Outlook reminder to blog pops up. So I click [snooze] or [dismiss] and go on to something else.
One of the things that motivates my writing and teaching is to drive people back to the bible, and deep rather than just a shallow 'what can the bible tell me about my life' kind of reading. I want people to take their cherished traditions to the bible and see if they hold up against it.
Often we build concepts on a verse of the bible. A verse. One. This is a process which doesn't take into account the rest of the bible on that topic. It can be a misleading process. An example that has popped up more than once recently is the idea of the Generational Curse.
I bet you're familiar with the idea. It's based upon the curse from the Law: "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me" (Exodus 20:5; also found in Exodus 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).
But, as Christians, we have to read the rest of the story. What about Jeremiah 31:29-34, Ezekiel 18 and Galatians 3:10-13? What do they have to say about the curse of the law?
(No! I'm not going to give you the answer! If one of my motivations is to drive people back to the bible, isn't this a good opportunity to make you open up your bible and see for yourself what those verses say? I'm going to encourage you to think rather than blindly accept what someone else told you.)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Sex, lies and fantasy

Time to blog again. Uh, no, way past time to blog again. The problem is that my brain is focused on another project - a book I'm doing the final edit on, and it needs to be done tomorrow! (At least I'm not at the 'yesterday' point yet!)
That reminds me of a question I had to answer on a survey about sexual addiction. (Yes, there's a long story behind that, related to Pure Desire, but that will have to wait for another time.) Anyway, the question was something like 'do you often find yourself in fantasies?'
I was puzzled about how to answer that. I'm a good Christian, so I don't want to lie. Is it a lie to answer not the question itself but what you believe is the intent behind the question?
The problem with my life is that I have a very active fantasy world in my head. I once stopped myself just before I told someone that I could get Steve Jeremiah to talk at their event. He's a fictional character that exists only in your books, lolo!
When I'm working on a book like I am now, it's hard to do anything else. Even sometimes when I'm watching TV with my husband, half of my brain is on one of the books I'm currently working on. I almost resent doing anything that doesn't advance my writing/editing, even things I really love to do.
I wonder if that's normal. Is it good? Is it neither good nor bad? Is the point that I need to prayerfully evaluate what God wants me to do and sometimes subjugate my desires to what I know needs to be done?
If you see me and I seem distracted, don't worry. I probably am. Just give me an "earth to Cheryl!" call and remind me that I have a life too!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

A Good Day?

Have you ever had one of those days when you feel like you're forgetting something? When something is 'off' but you can't quite pinpoint what?
I'm having one of those days. It's mildly disturbing, but maybe blogging will help me.
I've had lots of these days in the past. In fact, there was a time when it was pretty much my standard day! But they aren't so frequent anymore. And they aren't all that disturbing anymore either. (Note that I said 'mildly disturbing' above.)
The reason I'm not very disturbed is that as I've grown in my relationship with God, I've learned that these kine days are 'new creation' days. They're part of what the Apostle Paul talks about in Ephesians 4:22-24 when he said we are "to be made new in the attitude of [our] minds."
When nothing feels right, I have learned to press on with what I know. In the pressing on, I always break through to something better - a greater trust in following God even when I don't know where I'm going. Whether or not I accomplish something by worldly standards, I certainly achieve something of spiritual value. That makes it a really good day!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Blogs and Phones

I guess you know by now that I'm not a faithful blogger. The strange thing is that I love to write. I'm always writing. I've written seven books in sixteen months and a host of other things. So why don't I write my blog?
The problem with a blog is that it's supposed to be a means of communication. Writing a blog that no one responds to is like talking on the phone but no one is talking back. Before too long, you hang up.
Now, I'm not going to hang up my blog. I'll keep writing it, but I'm not going to promise there's going to be a post every week or every day or every other day. I do know that once someone begins to "talk" to me, I'll stay on the line!
BTW, if you are interested in the rest of the Holy Spirit and tongues discourse, check out my website. Sometime in the next week, I'll be posting the rest of my thoughts there in one file.
I hope to hear from you. I will be back, sooner than later now that I've figured out the problem of why I don't like to blog.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 11)

So, after sending Peter to preach to the God-fearing gentiles in Caesarea, the Holy Spirit falls on the new believers suddenly and unexpectedly. As in Acts 19, one of the signs that shows he has infilled the gentiles is the tongues. As we already saw, the Greek word used here is the same word used in all other places in the New Testament where tongues refer to languages. There is no separate word for foreign languages and for ecstatic utterances (e.g. private prayer language; ‘tongues of angels’). Some theorize that here in Acts 10 these tongues must be ecstatic utterances because foreign languages would fall on ‘deaf’ ears (meaning there would be no one to understand them), but the text does not tell us that. This is a difficult argument since the very nature of ecstatic utterances means that it also falls on ‘deaf’ ears unless there is an interpreter present, another gift of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit gives tongues, it must always be interpreted for anyone to understand it, whether it is tongues of men or angels. (We’ll look more in depth into this when we get to 1 Corinthians.)
The reality is that if Luke had thought it was important for his readers to know whether the tongues here or in Act 19 was of men or of angels, he would have clearly stated it. Thus we see the same thing we saw in Acts 19 – the tongues is not the important part of this story. It is simply a small piece of the larger story of the Holy Spirit moving and creating a new people of God.
In my next blog, we will consider the similarities and differences between the episodes in Caesarea and in Ephesus.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 10)

After Peter goes to Caesarea from Joppa, he tells the gentiles that there was a deeper meaning to his vision. More than animals were made clean: “You are well aware that it is against our law for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him. But God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean” (Acts 10:28).
When you’re reading the bible, one of the things to look for is repetition. Something said multiple times in a passage is probably important. The repetition of the vision and the continual reminders that these are gentiles tell us this is the heart of the whole passage. God, by coming to earth, dying on the cross and rising to eternal life, has restored the gentiles to him. No longer are they “unholy or unclean.” The Holy Spirit seals the deal with his infilling.
The fact that the Holy Spirit is the prime mover of this story is shown in his infilling, but the visions of Cornelius and Peter set us up to expect it. We are also on the alert because it is Peter, not Saul who is going to the God-fearing gentiles in Caesarea. In Acts 9, Saul was specifically named as God’s “chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles” (v. 15) and yet we do not see him making any inroads into that gentile mission before the action moves to Peter (9:32) who makes the first trust for Jesus into the gentile nations. This serves as a reminder that the Holy Spirit moves where and when he chooses – he is not bound by human agents, but it also tells us that the Holy Spirit’s gifts and callings aren’t exclusive – he will sometimes move believers to act outside of their area of calling. (This whole episode is also very important to later action in the church. It’s foundational to the circumcision debate, but we’ll need to explore that later.)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 9)

As promised, we'll start to explore the context of Acts 10:44-48 in greater detail in this blog. The passage starts in Acts 10:1 (though it does have more backward connections that I won’t explore in this blog) with the introduction of the gentile centurion, Cornelius, a God-fearing man who is visited by an angel of the Lord. The reader knows what Cornelius doesn’t at that time; by sending for Simon Peter, he is asking for the Gospel story.
Meanwhile, Peter is being prepared for this adventure. We need to detour into the Old Testament to fully understand what’s going on in this part of the passage.
Peter is almost quoting Ezekiel when he responds to the command to kill and eat. In Ezekiel 4, God had told the prophet to cook siege food over a fire of human dung. This was to be a sign for the people that they would eat “defiled food among the nations where I will drive them” (v. 13). Ezekiel’s response was, "Not so, Sovereign LORD! I have never defiled myself. From my youth until now I have never eaten anything found dead or torn by wild animals. No unclean meat has ever entered my mouth" (v. 14).
Here in Acts 10, when God tells Peter to “kill and eat” (v. 13), Peter’s response is: "Surely not, Lord! I have never eaten anything impure or unclean" (v. 14). Like Ezekiel, Peter finds it absolutely appalling that he would ever violate the Jewish dietary laws. (See Leviticus 11 and Deuteronomy 14 for more about clean and unclean animals.) While God backpedaled a little with Ezekiel and said, “Very well, I will let you bake your bread over cow manure instead of human excrement" (Ezekiel 4:15), to Peter he said: "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean" (Acts 10:15). In fact with Peter, God was so adamant about abolishing the dietary laws that he repeated this three times. Luke reports that Peter was perplexed at this, but the reader knows that this is an unequivocal restatement of Jesus’ comment about unclean foods: "'Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him "unclean"? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods 'clean.')" (Mark 7:18-19).
(To be continued of course! Don't you love the way a bible study can get so complex?)

Monday, July 12, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 8)

As we step backward to Acts 10, please bear with me as I remind you that we are backtracking the chiasm created in Luke-Acts, the two books written by the gentile physician. The beginning of Luke and the end of Acts show us the Roman influence on Jesus birth and the arrival of the gospel in Rome. The next point of the chiasm is the Galilee-Gentile connection.
Luke shows the beginning of Jesus’ ministry as Galilean. He gives geographical references that place Jesus in Galilee (4:14-15, 31; 5:1; 7:11; 8:26; 9:10) until 9:51 when Jesus “resolutely set out for Jerusalem.” Even then, Luke reminds us of the Galilean roots of Jesus ministry (10:13-15; 13:31-33; 17:11; 23:5-7, 55).
The corresponding point of the chiasm in Acts is the movement of the gospel, and thus the Holy Spirit, to the gentiles. This doesn’t seem to work well from our modern perspective, but the chiasm of Luke-Acts wasn’t written for us. It was written for first century believers who would have quickly picked up on the connection between Galilee and gentiles – In Isaiah 9:1, the prophet gave a Messianic prophecy in which “Galilee of the Gentiles” will be honored by the Messiah coming from there. (This is the same passage that Matthew 4:12-17 reports Jesus reading in the synagogue.)
The Luke-Acts chiasm and the immediate context of Acts 10:44-48 both point us to the gentile importance of this passage; the Holy Spirit and tongues are simply a part of the greater story. (Yes, the Holy Spirit is extremely important, but to the early church, he was already understood as the one who moved the gospel as it went out with the human activity. There was no need to specify it everytime.)
Next blog we will explore the context of Acts 10:44-48 in greater detail.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 7)

One more question before we go on to see what else Luke tells us in Acts: Here in chapter 19, why would Luke specifically mention tongues if it isn’t the marker of the Holy Spirit? First off, remember that in more than twenty places in Acts the infilling of the Holy Spirit is not shown to come upon believers and yet we know it happened (1 Corinthians 6:19; 12:13). Second, as I showed previously, this isn’t the “private prayer language” tongues – it is foreign languages. Third, the new believers spoke in tongues and prophesied. I will show later that if we focus on the signs this, the prophecy, is what we should focus on. But as a direct answer to the question – think of all the “gifts” of the Spirit that were recognized by the first century church. What are the ones that are easiest to see? Tongues was not reported in Acts as a marker for all times and all people, it was simply the quickest way to show that the new believer had indeed received the Holy Spirit.
Tune in next blog as we look at the Holy Spirit and gentile believers in Acts 10.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 6)

Does this incident in Acts 19 show us that laying on of hands is the standard for receiving the Holy Spirit? When we look at what Acts shows us, we see that two of the four infillings of the Spirit reported after the Day of Pentecost were done by laying on of hands (Acts 8:14-17 and Acts 19:6). The other two infillings the Holy Spirit accomplished without human agency. So how do you know if laying on of hands is necessary? From this context in Acts 18-19, the laying on of hands for the infilling of the Holy Spirit was used immediately after faith came. Apollos had believed for quite some time and he showed the fruit of the indwelling Holy Spirit already in his life, therefore he was neither “rebaptized” into Jesus nor did they lay hands on him to receive the Holy Spirit, but the newly baptized believers did have hands laid on them and they recieved the Spirit. However, this passage does not say that the specific reason Paul laid hands on them was so that they would receive the Holy Spirit. In fact, of the eleven times “laying on hands” is spoken of in Acts and the epistles, only in these two places in Acts is it done in conjunction with receiving the Holy Spirit. (In fact, in Acts 6:5-6, the apostles lay hands on Stephen who was already filled with the Holy Spirit.) That is not enough evidence to build a point of doctrine on. We will look at that more in-depth when we explore the infilling of the Holy Spirit reported in Acts 8.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 5)

So, I explored the story of Apollos and the twelve men, and said they are about faith and the heart. Lest you think maybe I’m reading too much into these two stories, let’s look at the story that follows in 19:8-20 – the seven sons of Sceva. These men had no faith at all yet they tried to use the Name of Jesus. They complete the story of Apollos who had great faith but needed a little more understanding and the twelve men who believed but didn’t know the one whom they claimed to believe in. Apollos is guided by fellow believers Priscilla and Aquila; the twelve are introduced into the true faith by Paul; the seven are sent running from the house, naked and ashamed when they are attacked by the demon because they tried to use what they didn't believe in.
When we look at it in context, we see that the story of the twelve in Acts 19 is part of a range of “believers.” The story is not intended to point to a separate “baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Instead it shows us that by this time, the Church knows that the Spirit will be indwelling true believers from the moment of their conversion. If the Holy Spirit was not in the disciple, he needed to be guided into faith, baptized into Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit, but someone who already showed the fruit of faith didn't need to be "baptized" into anything else.
Next blog, I will consider the question: Is the laying on of hands supposed to be the standard for receiving the Holy Spirit?

Friday, July 2, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 4)

My last blog ended with the question: Why does the Holy Spirit go underground in the last part of Acts? As I promised, that question takes us back to the “baptism of the Holy Spirit.”
In the first part of Acts, Luke firmly established that the Holy Spirit is the one who moves the Gospel as he indwells believers. Now he no longer needs to remind his readers of this fact as often.
This is proven in Acts 19 in Ephesus when Paul asks his wary question of those who called themselves disciples: “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" To which they responded: "No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit" (v. 2). Paul discovered these disciples didn’t know the true Gospel story; they had only been baptized into John’s baptism for repentance. Paul gives them the Gospel story, baptizes them into Jesus when they receive the story, then lays hands on them to receive the Holy Spirit.
When we try to understand this story on its own, we get tied up with the laying on of hands and the tongues. The context puts a different focus on the story which is actually about the faith of believers, not about “the baptism of the Holy Spirit.” In this case, the believers’ faith is based on an incomplete Gospel. It is simply based on the baptism of John for repentance without the true Messiah playing any part. The problem is not in the baptism of John – which does not demand a “rebaptism” into Jesus. The problem is that the baptism for repentance was not followed by faith in the Messiah. If it had been, there would have been no need for the twelve men to be baptized again after the baptism of John. How can I say that with certainty?
Look up at Acts 18:24-28 and you will see the beginning of this story. Also in Ephesus, Apollos is a man who, like the other twelve men, was only baptized into the baptism of John. But this man “had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and he spoke with great fervor and taught about Jesus accurately” (v. 25). When he comes to the attention of the Christian missionaries, he is not rebaptized, nor does he need to receive the Holy Spirit by laying on of hands as his misguided Ephesian brothers need. Instead “When Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they invited him to their home and explained to him the way of God more adequately” (v. 26, emphasis added). Apollos is already a true believer, already filled with the Holy Spirit. He just needs a little better understanding of how to properly understand the scriptures he already knew. (Doe he sound like someone you might know?)
But this isn't all we see in this passage in Acts. Come back to examine the rest of the story with me.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 3)

Before we can understand the so-called “baptism of the Holy Spirit” as it occurs in Acts, we must first lay groundwork of understanding about the book itself. In Acts, Luke completed a chiasm he began in his gospel. A chiasm was a typical literary device in the bible where parallel points move from the beginning and from the end toward a central idea. In Luke Jesus moved toward Jerusalem then in Acts the Holy Spirit moved out from Jerusalem. (Luke ends with the crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, Acts begins with it.) In this chiasm we see: The decree of the Caesar Augustus, the Roman ruler, that sent Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem where the Messiah was to be born (Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2); Paul’s appeal to Caesar which takes him to Rome in fulfillment of Jesus’ promise that “repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations” (Acts 25:11-12, 26:32; Luke 24:47; see also Acts 1:8). We also see that Jesus fulfills the requirements of the Jewish law (Luke 2:21-40) and Paul fulfills the requirements of the Jewish law (Acts 21:20-26).
Interestingly, these points of the chiasm show God moving through human agency – in Luke the Son of God is in his infancy and therefore moved by the actions of his human parents; in Acts, God the Holy Spirit is not specifically shown as moving toward Rome, but we know he is because in Acts 19, we were clearly reminded that he moved in and through Paul. The Spirit was indwelling the apostle Paul so as Paul continues on his journey toward Rome, the Spirit moves with him. (Of course he’s not limited by Paul’s movements, but that’s a theological discussion for another time.)
When we read the bible, one of the things we always need to remember is that each author had a theological (truth about God) point to prove. They chose the stories they used to emphasize that point. It was necessary to pick and choose because there are so many things that could be said about God that if they said them all, it would be hard to prove any single point. (See John 20:30-31; 21:25.) When we carefully study what a biblical writer said, how he put his stories together, shifts in style or form, repetitions, etc., we pick up clues to what’s important to the writer. We need to look beyond what we think is important and find what the author intended to be important.
In the first part of Acts (chapters 1-12), Luke writes about the Spirit or the Holy Spirit forty times. Half of them show the Spirit at work in the narration, the rest of are in dialogues that refer to the Spirit. In the rest of Acts (13-28), the Spirit is only spoken of seventeen times, eight of which show his actions. Three of those are in chapter 13 where Saul becomes Paul who becomes the main actor in Luke’s story of the spread of the Gospel. Paul’s stated mission was to take the Gospel to the Gentiles – all nations (Acts 9:15; 22:21; 26:17; Romans 1:5; 11:13; 15:16; Galatians 1:16; 2:2, 7). This is why he became the primary player of the drama in Acts. But why does the Holy Spirit go underground? The answer to that is rather detailed and takes us back to the baptism of the Holy Spirit. Unfortunately, I’ll have pick up on it in my next blog.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues (pt. 2)

In Acts 2 when Luke speaks of the apostles receiving tongues, it is clearly the miraculous ability to speak in other languages: “each one heard them speaking in his own language” (v. 6); “We hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues” (v. 11). This is not “private prayer language” tongues.
The next time Luke talks about tongues (glōssa in the original Greek) is in Acts 10, when Peter is in Caesarea. Luke reports that “they heard them [the Gentiles in Cornelius’ household] speaking in tongues and praising God” (v. 46). Peter’s response was: “They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have” (v. 47, emphasis added). What the Jewish believers had received from the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost was the ability to speak in other languages of men. Since Luke clearly stated that in Acts 2 and does not describe anything different here in Caesarea, we must assume his intent was for his readers to understand that this was the same glōssa that had been received on the day of Pentecost in Jerusalem. Any other interpretation is reading something in to the text that is not there – a very dangerous undertaking in biblical interpretation.
We see the same use of tongues in Acts 19, in Ephesus when Paul found men who had been baptized into “John’s baptism” and had not received the Holy Spirit. In Acts 19, they were baptized into “the name of the Lord Jesus” (v. 5) then “Paul placed his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied” (v. 6). Again, Luke does not report that this is something different from the glōssa he spoke of in Acts 2. Proper contextual interpretation insists that we must understand this “tongues” as “languages of men,” just like in Acts 2.
The only other books of the New Testament that use glōssa as anything other than the tongue or words that come off our tongue in our known languages, are 1 Corinthians and Revelation. I’ll explore 1 Corinthians in more depth later, but it is important to note that glōssa, which contemporary Christians usually use as “a private prayer language” is not used that way most of the time in the New Testament. In Revelation, just like in Acts, it is always used to refer to the languages of men: “...and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (v. 5:9); “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and in front of the Lamb.” (7:9). (See also 10:11; 11:9; 13:7; 14:6; 17:15.)
So we see that in the first century church, glōssa was commonly understood as “foreign languages.” The only place in the New Testament where it was referred to as a private prayer language was in 1 Corinthians. We will explore what Paul says about glōssa, but before that, let’s carefully consider the four cases of what we call “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” in Acts – in my next blog.

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Holy Spirit and the gift of tongues

Recently I was speaking to a group of women about the Holy Spirit. My message was about the person of the Holy Spirit not about the gifts or fruits of the Holy Spirit. It isn't that I don't believe the gifts and fruits are important, but because I believe we are too quick to jump to them without bothering to get to know the Holy Spirit himself. In the Q&A period after the message, I was challenged about the gift of tongues. The argument I was presented was that I needed to tell the women present that they had to get the gift of tongues. The woman who challenged me was insistent; I could provide her with no proof that tongues is not necessary for our connection to the Holy Spirit.
This bothered me on a number of levels, so I'm going to explore tongues and the Holy Spirit here in my blog.
My first argument is that tongues is overrated as evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit. It isn't nearly as prevalent in the New Testament as some believe.
The only three times in the entire New Testament when tongues is given as an evidence of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is in three of the five places in Acts when Luke specifically reported that believers showed the infilling of the Holy Spirit: Acts 2:1-4 (the day of Pentecost); 4:32 (during a praise service after Peter and John were released from prison-tongues not reported); 8:14-17 (to Samarian believers by the laying on of hands-tongues not reported); 10:44-48 (to gentile believers in Cesarea); 19:1-6 (to twelve men in Ephesus). There were at least twenty other places where Luke reports believers were added to the fold and the Holy Spirit is not specifically mentioned. (Acts 2:41-47; 4:4, 31; 6:7; 8:25, 38-39; 9:17-22, 31; 11:15-17; 11:21, 24; 13:48-52; 14:1, 27, 21; 16:15, 32-34; 17:4, 12; 18: 8; 18:24-19:7)
This shows us a number of things. First, Luke's original readers assumed the infilling of the Holy Spirit happened at the moment of conversion. Second, since that infilling is only mentioned four times out of more than two dozen reports of belief, there must be something special about those four times, otherwise Luke would not have so dramatically pointed to them. Check out my next post for what I believe the evidence says about those four times.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Our Redeemer - pt. 6

God’s joy is to see us changed, stripped of our sin. All the angels rejoice when one sinner falls to her knees and says, “Take me Lord. Make me yours. Forgive me.”
His joy is when we accept not just that redemption from sin, but also the redemption of our very nature when we learn to stand in him. When we claim our right to be fully redeemed in this life, not just for eternity, God dances with joy. When we say, “My sins are gone. Fill me with the fruit of my redemption, Lord,” that’s the joy that brings the marriage supper of the Lamb here to us today. Don’t wait to enter eternity, grasp it now!
You sit here today and maybe you have never committed your life to the hands of your Redeemer, but you want to now. Maybe you’ve been a Christian for a while, but you haven’t learned to persevere yet so that God can truly fill you with his fruit, maybe you keep falling into the sins of your past. Maybe you're doing a pretty good job of living for Christ, but you aren’t perfect yet. If you fit in any of those categories, would you pray with me now?
Jesus, you are our Redeemer. You came to take our sins from us. I want that freedom from sin that you offered. And I want to be clean and new. I wan to be filled with the fruit of my redemption, not just forgiven, but different, a new creation. Work in me, Lord, and don’t let up until you take me home to live with you for all eternity. Thank you Jesus for living both as the man who was tempted as I am and as the perfect crucified sacrifice, joyously resurrected!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Our Redeemer - pt. 5

This suffering that you want out of, it’s the road to true union with your redeemer. Is it a husband who has messed up so many times that you can’t trust him anymore? Then go to the Hebrew prophets and weep with the God who understands your pain, the God who had to divorce his beloved for a time but who went and got her back when she was repentant. Learn from him how he wants you to deal with this suffering so it will produce perseverance and mature your character.
Is your suffering those recalcitrant children who will not stay on the straight and narrow? Then sink yourself into Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and know the God who understands your pain, learn from him how to deal with those children.
Is it your body that fails you because age, illness or injury has robbed you of so many things you want to do? Go to the manger and marvel at the baby, utterly helpless and yet he is the same one who stood with the Father and the Spirit and said, “Let there be light!”
Are you afraid you’re going to lose your home in these tough economic times? Jesus said the birds of the air and the fish of the sea had places to lay their heads but the Son of Man had nowhere to call home. Think of the home, the paradise that really was Paradise, that he willingly left so that he could be tempted and tried even as you are.
If you’ve been abused, read the gospels and see the Jesus who said, “You will not touch me – this is not the suffering willed by my Father.” Learn what godly suffering is and reject all others. Take that suffering to the Lord and let him show you the way out of it.
Don’t ask God “why” you suffer, ask him what now! How will I draw closer to you through this suffering? How will you be glorified?
God suffered for the joy set before him. It was not just the incredible joy of that awesome day in the future when the sun will set to rise no more because it is no longer necessary because we can see the light of God’s glory without the veil. God’s joy is here today. It is in the woman who cannot rise from her bed, but she chooses the joy of the Lord anyway, and she praises him even while her circumstances are nothing to praise about. God’s joy is when a wife says, “I can’t forgive him again God. I know your will is to forgive, but I am weak. Be my strength. Help me to forgive in your strength” God’s joy is when a woman stands up and says, “I am God’s daughter. I will suffer for him when I must, but I will not be abused!” and she casts her fears aside and seeks the help she needs because God is her strength. ...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Our Redeemer - pt. 4

Why would anyone willingly take all these sins – sexual immorality, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, drunkenness, orgies, lust, evil desires, greed, obscenity, murderer, perversion, lies, perjury – upon himself if he’s not crazy! It’s a crazy kind of love that desired a very special relationship. See, when Jesus hung on that cross, he didn’t just cover that sin up, he took it away! He took from us our sexual immorality, hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, drunkenness, orgies, lust, evil desires, greed, obscenity, murderer, perversion, lies, perjury. He threw it into the sea of forgetfulness. But it wasn’t just that the old had gone – he’s got a new waiting for us! If you empty a vessel of its opala and don’t refill it, it’s just going to collect more rubbish, so when we accept Jesus as our Redeemer, he doesn’t just redeem us from our sins, he redeems us for a new self. 2 Corinthians 5:17 tells us “the old has gone, the new has come!” When we abide in him, live intentionally with him, get to know him, hear him, choose to follow him, God produces fruit in us – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, righteousness, truth, compassion, humility, wisdom, knowledge, faith and hope.
When the New Testament uses the word “hope,” in almost every occurrence, it means “an attitude of confidently looking forward to what is good and beneficial; an expectation.” This is no wishy-washy “I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow ’cause I’d like to hang some clothes on the line.” No, it’s a confident, “I hope, I know confidently, that God has a plan for my life.”
How do we develop this confident expectation? We get that through a mature character.
How do we get mature character? We get it when we learn to persevere. How do we learn to persevere? We be God-like! We suffer! ...

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Our Redeemer - pt. 3

But even the temptations were not the beginning of our redemption. Jesus came so we would have a redeemer whom we would know understands our pain. So his sufferings go back much further than his adult ministry. They go back to the baby born to the peasant girl and her young husband. The one who had created the universe had chosen to become this baby who could not feed or clothe himself. He had to have his diaper changed, his hand slapped so that he would learn that fire hurts without getting burned. He had to learn the very history he had written. He had to submit his will to parents who didn’t understand who he was.
The Son of God’s sufferings go back even further than that first Christmas day. They go back nine months further when the angel stood before Mary and said, “The Holy Spirit will overshadow you and you will bear God’s child.” God the Son left his heavenly home to dwell with the people who needed his redemption. It was a whole lot like if you wanted to help the homeless from within their community but they were living on the shores of the Arctic Ocean rather than on the beaches of Waianae!
But God’s suffering goes back even further. It goes back to the perfect husband whose bride, Israel ran off as Ezekiel said, to chase after men who were hung like donkeys (Ezekiel 23:20). It goes back to the people who decided that the King of kings wasn’t a good enough king for them; they wanted a king who would hurt them over and over but no biggie, at least they could harass him into action or force an answer out of him.
God’s suffering went back even further to the children he’d delivered from captivity so they could fashion a golden calf to worship, the children who would call him a liar! “We can’t defeat those giants.” God’s suffering goes back to the very day I mentioned earlier when Adam made his decision and sin entered the world. It goes all the way back to the day God’s beloved Lucifer incited one-third of the angels to rebel against their Creator.
Why did God do all that? Why did he choose to suffer? I certainly wouldn’t willingly choose that much suffering! But God did. Why?
I can’t understand the mind of God because I’m only created in his image. I lack much of his essence. But I have figured out this much. When seriously considered from human standards, God is crazy! ...

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Our Redeemer - pt. 2

Jesus took these sins and he nailed them on the cross. He hung on that cross for six hours (Mark 15:25,34) and the weight of the sin of the world pressed down upon him and he no longer felt the presence of his Father and he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
But when he had paid the price, he was not defeated. Luke and Matthew both say Jesus cried out in a loud voice (Matthew 27:46, 50; Luke 23:46). This is a man who hasn’t slept in two days; he’s been beaten so that his blood ran freely, forced to carry a heavy beam until he collapsed under its weight. For the last six hours, he’s been slowly suffocated and in excruciating pain. And yet when “it is finished,” when sin is gone, paid for, and he has glorified the Father, done his will, Jesus is victorious, not defeated. The bloody, broken, forsaken man sees his Father once again. With the voice of victory, he cries loudly, joyously “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”
And he died. He truly died. His body was pierced in the side, right up into his heart and the living water and the blood of the covenant poured out from his pierced side. The blood and the water are now freely available because he died. He was buried.
But then Sunday morning, oh yes, Sunday morning came. Dawn came, the earth shook, the angel spoke, Mary cried, and the gardener wasn’t a gardener! He was the risen Son of God! And the power of death had gone the way of sin’s power. Defeated because Our Redeemer Lives!
But that’s not the whole story. Our Redeemer lived. The redemption started way before Jesus was taken in the garden on Thursday evening. Hebrews 4:15 tells us Jesus was tempted, just as we are, yet he did not sin. You maybe familiar with what we often call “The Temptation of Christ.” That’s when Satan came to Jesus in the wilderness and tempted him with his physical needs, tempted him to tempt God and tempted him to commit idolatry. But that wasn’t Jesus’ only temptation. His brothers mocked him and tried to get him to choose his own agenda rather than follow God’s will (John 7:3-9). Peter tried to get him to abandon the Father’s will – to which Jesus replied, “Get behind me you devil!” (Matthew 16:21-23) The religious leaders were always tempting Jesus to get out of the Father’s will – with threats to shut up or else (John 7:28-32) and with requests to show them a sign so they could believe (Matthew 12:38; Mark 8:11). They even tempted him on the cross, “Come on down here and we’ll believe you are who you say you are” (Matthew 27:41-43). His own flesh even tempted him sorely. As the time approached to go to the cross, the knowledge of the pain he would suffer had him weeping great drops of blood and begging the Father to show him a different way (Matthew 26:39; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42; John 12:27).
Jesus resisted all temptation because he stayed grounded in the Word and in the will of his Father. “It is written,” he told the devil in the desert. “I do what the Father tells me to do,” he answered his detractors. “Not my will, but yours Father,” Jesus cried when fear tried to swamp him in the garden. ...

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Our Redeemer - pt. 1

On Monday, I gave the message at the New Hope Leeward WIRED Women's Celebration. Not everything went as planned and I had to modify my message, pare it down some to fit in the time I ended up having. Since I had to chop a good part of it (because they were all good parts) I have decided that I'll share the message in my blog. It will take a few posts to get it all, but I'm sure you won't mind reading a serial! So here's the first part:
Our redeemer lives! What comfort this gives us! At this time of year, our thoughts so easily turn to the cross and the resurrection. And they are glorious indeed because we so needed a redeemer. Sin and death are our lot from the moment we're conceived. Way back in Genesis 3, Adam and Eve sinned, changing the nature of their descendants from the pure image of God they were intended to be. All children born to the man and the woman who were fashioned directly by God’s hands would be born with a sinful nature. But God promised the woman that one of her seed would destroy the serpent who had destroyed her.
Adam and Eve’s children and their children’s children became very creative with their sin. Galatians 5:19-21 tells us that the acts of the sinful nature are “sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”
This may seem so modern to you, like maybe the apostle Paul was looking down through history to 21st century America, but he wasn’t. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.” Ever since the angel stood at the gates of Eden to bar Adam and Eve’s way back to the tree of life, mankind has been struggling with the same sinful nature, the same inclination to sin. There are lots of lists of the sins of man in the bible.
Ephesians 5:3-4 gives us: or of greed, obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking.
Colossians 3:5 = lust, evil desires
1 Corinthians 6:9-10 = nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor slanderers nor swindlers.
1 Timothy 1:9-10 = lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly, the unholy and irreligious; for murderers, perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine
This is the nature we have received from Adam and Eve. We could cull a much larger list from the bible and we could add specific sins from our day today, couldn’t we?This is depressing, isn’t it? When it stands up here on its own, it is seriously depressing! In the four thousand years since the first book of the bible was penned, mankind hasn’t evolved at all! We stink! This is why we need a redeemer! ...

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Faith and Fandom

I am both a Chicago Bears' and a St. Louis Cardinals' fan. I have been a Bears' fan and a Cardinals' fan for a very long time and there's nothing that will ever happen to change that. I didn't become a Bears' fan because they wiped out the Patriots in Superbowl XX, not am I a Cardinals' fan because Albert Pujols may end up being the best hitter in MLB history, without the benefits of steroids. Of course I'm very proud of the things "my" teams have done, but that's not why I love them. I love them without rhyme or reason. Some years (maybe most years?) it doesn't seem a rational or reasonable thing to do, to root for the Bears and the Cardinals, but I do it anyway. I wouldn't bet against them even if they were on a Detroit Lions-sized losing streak. No way, no how will anyone ever be able to turn me from my love of the Bears and the Cardinals.
My Christian faith is similar, but very, very different. No way, no how will anyone ever be able to turn me from my love of Jesus Christ, but my faith is a rational, proven thing while my fandom is strictly visceral. My family has long been Cardinals' fans so I would have taken it in with my mother's milk, except I had to drink goat's milk instead (go figure!). I first liked the Bears in high school when I read Gayle Sayers' book, I Am Third, then Brian Piccolo: A Short Season. When I started watching the Bears play, it was a no-brainer that I would love them. (That D is da bomb! Too bad we have so much trouble with the offense.) I can tell you why I'm a fan of the Cardinals and the Bears, and though I'll argue with a Cubs' fan or a Packers' fan till we both blow blood vessels, neither love is a rational one. My love for God is.
I have taken the time to test the faith of my fathers. I have discovered that the bible is the most reliable ancient document that exists today. I have read not just the bible, but also the criticism of it. I have researched other faiths, even atheism (whose adherents strangely claim to have no faith). What I have discovered is that Christianity is the most logical, rational decision anyone can make, but it goes beyond the rational and gives me an even better emotional charge than even a Superbowl win gives!
I can't prove the above statement in one blog, or even in twenty, because it's taken me thirty years to get to the place I am now, but if you check back every now and then, you just might find a note or two about the decision that's both logical and emotional.
God bless.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sex and the Single Christian

I'll confess a deep, dark, not-so-secret. I like "Numb3rs"! My husband and I are renting the DVDs and watching the previous seasons; we're on season four right now. One thing I do not like about the series (and just about every other show I've seen in recent years) is it's cavalier attitude about sex. It's not just that everyone's "doing it" (except Granger so far. Hang in there buddy!), it's also that no one is even debating the rightness or wrongness of sex outside of marriage anymore!
You may find it interesting that the central characters in my "Shepherd Series" don't debate the wrongness or rightness either. They already know that sex outside of marriage is wrong and they have every intention of following God's plan for sex. They even help each other remain sexually pure through practical application of accountability.
It is not just possible to remain a virgin until you marry, it's also preferable! As Christians, we need to not just be talking about abstinence, we need to be talking about how to do it! Let's talk about both the practical and the spiritual benefits. And let's do it as parents; don't leave it to an abstinence program offered through the youth group. Tell you children early and often how right it is to wait. And while you're at it, model a life that makes them want to follow your advice!
God bless,
Cheryl

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time Stewardship

Time is one of the most precious resources God has given us. One of the things that's so cool about time is that it is the easiest resource to get under control and you see the quickest results.
We have nine areas of stewardship: Time, body, mind, relationships, talents, words, finances, the natural world and ministry. In all other areas of stewardship, it takes time to see real results if we've lost control. If you've gained twenty extra pounds, it's probably going to take you twenty months to lose that, if you lose it at all. If you have let your mind fall into traps of what my friend calls "stinkin' thinkin'," it takes years of counseling and concerted effort to change the way you think. But time, once you decide to get it under control -and really decide, not the I'm-going-to-quit-smoking-because-everyone-tells-me-how-bad-it-is type quitting, but the honest I-want-to-be-free-from-the-bondage-of-smoking quitting that really works. Once you decide to get your time under control, you can see the results in less than a month. Much easier than getting your finances back under control.
I'm sure you probably doubt me, but it's true. If you want to be free of the bondage of worrying about time, you've already got half the battle licked. Now all you need to do is learn two thing - what your priorities are and how to say "no." Once you do the first, the second is so much easier. For example, I now know that my worth is not defined by how many things I can juggle at once. My worth comes from one thing - the blood of the Lamb that has cleansed me and made me worthy in God's eyes, even if man doesn't see me as worthy. God's opinion is the one I value, so if I have to tell man "no" to get a you're-on-the-right-track nod from God, I'm going to tell man "no"!
Here's the thing about mankind - everyone thinks their project is the most worthwhile project out there. If they didn't, they wouldn't be doing it. And almost everyone you know, and a few dozen people whom you don't personally know, wants you to be involved in their project with your time, talents or money, probably all three. You can't do it all. You have to know what your God given priorities are and you have to explore every demand on your time based upon those priorities. If they don't fit, say no.
Here's a big hint - quit giving excuses for your no. It only encourages people to convince you that you're wrong. If you simply say "no" and refuse to engage in a dialogue about your no, it's so much easier to stick to your guns.
On the other hand, if you've already committed to something and now have realized that you shouldn't be doing it, don't just disappear from the project/team. Explain to your leader what your situation is and work out a reasonable plan that gets you out from under that burden without putting a burden on the project leader. Don't neglect or injure your relationships, an area of stewardship, to get time under control. You have to see all stewardship as interconnected. Once you do, you'll get much better at stewarding.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Daylight "Savings" Time

This past week, I got an email from some business telling me about their Daylight Savings Sale. My first thought was, Oh man, now they're using that as an excuse! Then I thought, Oh no! Where did the month go! Did I Rip Van Winkle? I checked my calendar and sure enough, it's the middle of March. Why is it Daylight Savings Time already? Hawaii doesn't do DST, so I've missed out on whatever the reasoning for most of the rest of the country to enter this exercise in futility three weeks early.
Yes it is an exercise in futility. I remember when I was a wee tiny babe back in the seventies, there was one year that we went to DST during the winter. Even then I couldn't see the logic. I didn't see any "saving" going on. In fact, all it meant was that when my sisters and I got on the school bus at oh-dark-thirty, it was oh-darker-thirty and seemed to be twenty degrees colder! Sure the sun was up longer after I got home from school, but not much longer. I didn't see, have never seen, how DST gave me any benefit at all. In fact, I think a better term for it would be DPT - Daylight Procrastination Time!
We cannot "save" time. We can move our clocks around all we want, but the sun isn't going to be effected by it at all. It's still going to march relentlessly, the days becoming a few minutes longer each day until June 20/21. Then they're going to go right back the other way, gradually becoming shorter and shorter until December 20/21. The cycle continues just as it has for eons, well before the clock was even invented.
All DST gives us is the illusion that we have more time in the day. It encourages us to put off things because we now have "more time." That's procrastination, and it doesn't work. I know because I have a very strong tendency to procrastinate. But since I quit wearing a watch, I'm much better at doing what needs to be done now rather than putting it off for another time.
I originally quit wearing a watch while I was still in the army. There were two reasons for it: I didn't like the white wrist thing, so when I realized how annoying it was to talk to someone who kept looking at their watch, I took mine off. For a while I kept it in my pocket, now I don't even know where it is. Yes, I do have a clock on my cell phone, but since half the time I can't read it because I don't have my reading glasses, it doesn't really help me to be on time.
The interesting thing is that since I quit watching the clock, I am rarely late for things. I'm more likely to be early, but that's okay because knowing I often find myself with spare time, I almost always have something to work on or a book to read. I also have discovered that I get more done, primarily because I listen to my internal "clock" to know when to switch to something else.
You may be utterly fascinated, but right now, my internal clock is telling me I need to take a break from my computer. Hopefully I won't ignore my next Outlook reminder and I'll tell you the rest of the story in the next day or too. Until then, try not to procrastinate too much!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Time and the Fear of God

Obviously Outlook reminders are only as good as the person choosing to dismiss or snooze! Eventually I'm going to get my life back in control and get better at blogging at least every other day.
Right now you're probably rolling your eyes and thinking, "Yeah right! That's what we all say." But it really is possible to have more control over your life. God doesn't put us in a constant state of crisis, always overwhelmed by too many things. We do that to ourselves. Anything we do to ourselves, at least time wise, can be "undone." We can gain control over our time, at least most of the time. Sure there will be crises, but we'll have a strength of character to deal with them if we normally live proactively rather than reactively. When we can plan out most of our days and stick to the plan, we have greater reserves to draw on when something unexpected happens. All you need to do is learn to say "no."
There are so many good things to do in life, and everyone thinks their project is the best one. They want a piece of you and they can't understand why you wouldn't jump at the chance to get on board with them. Rarely do they (we. all of us do it to others too) stop to think about the fifty other people who have asked for your help this week. If God gave them a mission, then shouldn't everyone be on board with it?
When I get my focus on God and what my personal mission is from him, I can begin to get more control over everything else. God created me to be a writer and I firmly believe he wants me to use my talent for his glory. I must write. Above all else -the women's ministry, the marriage ministry, the prison ministry, the divorce ministry, the Island Christian Guide ministry, and every other ministry that calls for my attention - I have to first be true to that which God created me to do. No matter what I want to do, love to do, I need to obey God first.
That's what fear of the Lord is. It's being way more concerned about letting God down, disobeying him than we are about letting down anyone else. How many times have I said, 'yeah, I'll do it,' knowing that if I do what I'm committing to, something else will have to slide? If I let the leader of a ministry, a business contact or even my husband dictate to me what is most important, I risk setting them up as an idol in my life. Sure I need to listen, get their input, but when it comes down to it, sometimes I have to say "No, God is giving me a different mission. I gotta go that way." I have to work with others because God intends for all of us to be in relationship, but the bottom line is, I'm directly responsible to God for what I have done with my life. He's the one I'm going to have to answer to one of these days. No matter how hard my husband frowns at me, I've got to fear God's frown even more!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

The Great I AM

So, how do I appreciate my Creator more? I'm sure you've been wondering that these last few days since my previous post. It's probably kept you up at night, so I abjectly apologize for not having returned to this blog for four days. I'll have to get better at that, put a reminder on my Outlook or something.
In writing, I have developed a greater appreciation for the way God doesn't always tell us what we want to know. It's really one of those no-brainer things that I knew but I didn't know, if you know what I mean.
In writing good fiction, character development is the most critical aspect of writing. You can have beautiful scenes with gorgeous costuming, but if your characters aren't developing in a reasonable, somewhat logical manner (though some characters are illogical), your story will fall flat. I know some things that are going to happen to some of my characters in later books. It's necessary for them to do things, go through things in the earlier books so that they have the strength of character to deal with what's coming. The characters don't know what's going to happen later, but I, their creator, do. They sometimes whine at me, but I usually just ignore their whining because I know best!
Hopefully you see how that relates to understanding God. Romans 5 tells us about suffering leading to perseverance which gives us character that develops hope. Whatever God does in our lives is for a greater good that we cannot understand now (and may never understand. In real life things aren't often as obvious as in a novel) but God does know what he's doing. He wants our character to develop. He wants us to be strong, full of hope and faith. Not the wimpy kind of everything-is-so-wonderful-so-let's-praise-God faith, but a faith that says "I'm confused, hurt, lost, really ticked off, but you know what, you're still God and that fact alone gets me through this."
We too often want to praise God for what he's done, which isn't a bad thing, but the problem is that we forget that even before he created anything at all, he was already worthy of praise. His worthiness of praise isn't dependent upon what he's done, it rests first in who he is. We tend to identify him by what he's done - Creator, Redeemer, Provider, etc. But when he introduced himself to the Israelites in Exodus, he said "Worship me because I AM!"
Can you worship him simply because HE IS?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In the Beginning

I have to admit that this is much harder to do than I expected, this blogging. It shouldn't be hard because I'm a writer. I've been writing for - well, since I was in grade school. I've written poetry, short stories, articles, essays, books, songs, and destroyed entire rain forests for all the academic papers I've written. But I've never done a blog. I don't even know what "blog" means. I know what it is, of course, it's what you're reading, but what does it mean? Blathering Loudly Obscurely Gratuitously? Bafflingly Ludicrous Outrageous Gossip?
But do I really need to understand the origin of "blog" to effectively use one? Of course not! It's not like my favorite book, the bible which is only properly understood when you get to the original meaning.
It's easy to get to the bible from any starting point, but especially so right now for me. Not only am I writing Christian fiction, but I'm working on a message about the Creator that I'm going to give on March 8 (at NHL in Waipahu). Both John and Genesis talk about the Creator and start with "In the beginning" and this is the beginning of my blog, so why shouldn't I talk about the Creator since when I write I am exercising my Imago Deo? (Writers do have convoluted logic. It's part of our charm.)
When I took Old Testament Survey in bible college, I learned about understanding the bible from the perspective of the original writer/readers. I was intrigued to discover that the Creation story isn't about science at all, so it can't be used to address evolutionary theory because that's like trying to tell someone they shouldn't like asparagus (gross!) because fried chicken is so delicious. Both may be facts, but they aren't closely enough related to have a bearing on each other.
The purpose of Genesis was to tell an emerging nation, God's chosen people, that they were no accidental byproduct of the wars of the gods or created for the amusement of said gods. Instead they were very deliberately and carefully made to be in fellowship with their Creator. Everything was crafted for God's pleasure and purpose, and his pleasure was to have an intimate, loving relationship with the pinnacle of his creation, mankind.
Genesis tells us that we were created in the image of God. Part of that image is a creativity that echoes our Creator. I've always known that I had a lot of creativity, not just in writing, but in cooking, sewing, crafts, etc. (I'm a regular Renaissance Woman!) Now I firmly believe that we don't fully live until we discover the one thing where our creativity shines through the strongest. In finally giving myself over to the creative talent of writing and crafting not just one book, but going on, and on and on .... (Five books and counting and I only started nine months ago!) In giving myself to my creative talent, I have a deeper love and appreciation for God.
One of the things I understand better is that it isn't always wise to give too much information to your "audience" too soon, for a number of reasons. One reason is that they may not be able to handle it yet. Another could be that they'll try to get ahead of you. Then there's always the keep-them-coming-back-because-that's-how-we-build-a-relationship reason. That said ...
I guess you'll just have to tune in to my next post!