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Archive for January, 2014

January 15, 2014

As I read through the first chapters of Genesis yet again, I find myself mind-bottled over a new concern.

Genesis 2: 15-17

Then the LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’

But keep in mind, that “God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…so God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.  Then God blessed them (Genesis 1:26-27).

Was man created to appear as God, physically?  Was man given the instinctual sense of authority and power over the other creatures, as is explained by his naming of all the birds and beasts of the land?

Recently I heard Pastor Josh Nelson speak on the emotions of God.  Yes, God is emotional.  The difference being, between God and ourselves, is His expression is perfect; man’s has been flawed.

Did man already have a sense of loneliness? Did that loneliness make Adam depressed and sad, or was he pleased by the work God had provided for him?

Did man aimlessly obey without choosing the Way of God with praise and joy?

In and out of the church we often say, “It is in darkness that the light shines brightest” or “just on the other side of this desert.”  We refer to the pain of the world and recognize that after experiencing pain and suffering, grace and goodness feel so much more real.  They become worthy of giving our everything to God as a daily sacrifice.  We don’t necessarily desire the trials, but we celebrate the triumphs with an Almighty God.

Adam was unaware, in the beginning.  Or at least this is my understanding.

After God introduced woman to man, the serpent enters the garden and tempts her to try “fruit from the tree which is in the midst of the garden (Genesis 3:3):

Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die.  For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.  So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate.  She also gave to her husband with her and he ate.  Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked (Genesis 3:4-7).

My complexity with this story this morning is this:

God created man and woman in His image, as we still are today.  God predestined our lives and knows absolutely everything in advance.  God told man and woman about the tree, without mentioning it as a tree of knowledge.

Today, Christians are aware that we only obtain a glimpse of God’s great knowledge, but that He is the storehouse for absolutely EVERYTHING.  Therefore, if Adam and Eve had not picked fruit from the one tree that was made forbidden, how perfect would man be today?

Perfect: entirely without any flaws, defects, or shortcomings; excellent or complete beyond practical or theoretical improvement.

As I read of the first time man and woman felt ashamed, I found myself picturing scenes from Pleasantville (1998), a partial black and white film displaying the first time a town witnesses a fire, the colors of their skin, etc.

In the garden, Adam and Eve were made aware of their nakedness, and became ashamed, afraid.

Genesis 1 exclaims “Then God said,’Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear’; and it was so. And God called the dry land Earth” (9-10).

Heaven and Earth were made separate from the very beginning, and the hosts of each were made differently.

Genesis was written around 1250-1200 B.C; Revelations 68-70 A.D..

Christians live today with the recognition of an eternity in Heaven as the reward for a sacrificed life of service for God’s great mission while we live on earth.  Currently we live bounded by time, but soon we will be outside of time, living closely with God in His Kingdom.

It is therefore my belief, that in the Hebrew dialect one would most likely find different words explaining the perfection God anticipated for man on earth and the glorious, white canvas that is God’s Kingdom in Heaven.

It is this conflicting, limited understanding I have that will drive me to seek understanding of the vision that is portrayed in Revelations.

Yet through this new interest in studying Heaven and its’ portrayal throughout all of Scripture, I will be cautious as to continue delighting in the glimpses God allows me and not subjected to the Knowledge He prevents me from experiencing.

By the understanding I will gain, I imagine this will change, but for now, I thank God that I get to freely choose to be humbled by His reign, obedient to His will, and embraced by His gracious love.  Therefore, I suppose I am claiming, the experience, the dependency I choose to have for God is different than that Eve most likely shared with God.  I delight in the ability to witness God make glorious transformations from the hazardous world we now inhabit.

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January 7, 2014

Yesterday I had the privilege of joining 9 members of my church for a half-day missions trip to Tijuana.  We sponsor a women’s shelter for victims of human trafficking.

That is how God was most pleased to spend our day of celebration, and I was delighted! For 2+ hours, after pampering the girls, we communicated with God.  Although we did not understand each others’ languages completely, God’s great language flooded the house.  The language of His redeeming Love.

Along on the trip was the pastor of my church.  At one point during the car ride, Josh told a story.

One Sunday one of the members brought his mom to church.  After the service she came up to me and said, ‘You are young.’  I thanked her, thinking it was a compliment.  Her body language spoke differently.  She rephrased, ‘You are the youngest pastor I’ve ever met.’

Josh continued by explaining that this women was desiring a pastor with aged wisdom.  She was dismayed by the position a 31 year old male could take in the church.  Josh remarked, “I am the age Jesus was in His ministry.”

I understand both side.   An amazing professor, author, and international speaker, Dr. Sid Buzzell, once told me in a private mentoring setting, “At my age, I gain new  knowledge not by those beyond my years, but those living” a fresher, fuller life.  Sid had an amazing handful of mentors through his years, but now in his seventies, Sid is learning from the forty-something year old professors who gather to discuss theology and philosophy at every lunch.

Jesus was a scholar.  The best scholar, I would argue.  At the age of 12 he ran away to observe, absorb, and teach in a synagogue.  Jesus was also a laborer in his youth.  A carpenter to be more exact.  God chose to come into the flesh and live the life a man would lead.  Jesus then grew to be the leader of the Church on earth.  God is the Leader of His great Church.

Pastoring.  A spiritual gift, a skill, a character, a lifestyle God has called some of his servants into.  Intellect does not make the pastor.  Life experience does not make the pastor.  Rather, God elects and grows a population of individuals He has ordained to head His churches.

A church is simply a building.  But leading a church, is leading a branch of God’s great Kingdom.  It is a small gathering of God’s family here on earth.

“For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior” (Ephesians 5:23). 

No wife can expect her husband to be perfect.  Although submissive, we women remain founded also in Christ Jesus.  In the same way, no pastor is perfect.  For a pastor is a man leading his own household serving the Lord in good fashion(Joshua 24:15), that God instills in him the ability to also lead the church, submissive to Jesus who is above Him.

In church, we see a portrait of God when we view our pastor.  For no one man can lead greater than God, Himself.  Therefore, it is my full belief, that when we exercise the gifts God has ordained in each of us, we are being one with God.

Therefore, in our day-to-day lives, let us tap into those gifts in a daily commitment to His ministry.

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January 6, 2014

I just now realized this, after I was affirmed to write today, that today is my Jesus Birthday! With one of those smiles you just can’t tear down and tears of joy bursting out of my eyes, I thank God that we have explored the world, the home, the education, the ministry, the death, and the life together for SIX YEARS!  I celebrate my Jesus Birthday, extra special, it is the only day of the year that I recognize as a day to celebrate the life that I personally am living.  It is a day that I fly on the wings of an Eagle, protected under the wings on most days, but today we soar.  My Jesus Birthday is the anniversary of the day I was baptized, the day I was renewed by a cleansing, by accepting Jesus’ sacrifice as Truth to restore me into a new person.

I think of the kids I teach every day and on Sundays, the six year-olds who have been taught to pray, and begin to individualize their pleas to God.  The joy that exudes out of their non-manufactured dances and their worship screams.  No kid is in tune.  No kid is dancing a prim and proper dance.  But God, He is delighted by the celebrations and communications of His little children.

I am one of them today!

Although my six comes after 16 years of emotional, social, physical, and mental growth, so my abilities at a Spiritual 6 are greater than that of a physical 6, I have the joy of a child after God’s heart.

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Bill Hybel’s Holy Discontent is a book I read through in not even a day in a half.  I was at a four day silent retreat, Sacred Heart, in Colorado.  God shook me BIG.  See, for 51 months I have lived now knowing the mission that God has for my life.  I have lived nearly every day dedicated to attaining the skill and intellect to achieve His mission with the best of my abilities.  I have sacrificed my immediate desires to satisfy this need.  I have lived knowing, “vocation is the place where your happiness meets the world’s greatest need” (Frederick Buechner).

However, for me, it is greater than happiness.  It is recognizing what delights me most and then working to bring that to others.  Therefore, my vocation, as God has shared, is facing the ugliness of the world and bringing those in hardship to a place of peaceful companionship.

Reading through my prayer box and lifting the individual requests up to God this morning, I found one dated November 4, 2012.  It reads as follows:

I give you my Holy Discontent.                                                                                            My Holy Discontent: Broken marriages  → bad parenting

God, may my heart grow.  May I be connected with the people, may this discomfort be fed, may our work be viewed as an act of grace–a time for broken hearts to be united in Your Family.

On the front of the card I have written, “Affirmed on September 1, 2013 by C.M.” a mom of one of the kids I teach in Sunday school.

In the kid’s classroom yesterday afternoon, I found God encouraging me to pray for the perverted minds of the world.  I did not recognize the pain He felt until I recognized the environment: as the kids sung  songs of praise around me and I stood still with tears dripping from my eyes.  This morning I added an index card to my “God Box,” praying:

I GIVE YOU… this world’s perverted minds

May we be a stronger army of rebels fighting against sexual perversion.  May young girls not become victim to twisted men any longer.  I appreciate, O God, that Your Light shines in darkness, but may this evil be demolished! Completely won over by the Goodness that is You!

Prostitutes, whether in human trafficking abroad or on the American streets, are a clientele God has pulled my heart to yearn for.  One day, in my retreat center, I pray many girls rid the lie from their lives that their worth is only the value men view there bodies for.  I pray over girls dying on the street right now, that they may be told by ANYONE, perhaps YOU, that their is a god, the God, who loves them, adores them, and enriches their lives.  That He cares for their heart, not their physical attractiveness. That He has great plans for their lives, and that the girls will never be bonded again.  For Jesus allows freedom of the greatest magnitude!

As I finished reading Jennie Allen’s Anthing: the prayer that unlocked my God and my Soul last night, I fell in love again with the call God has placed on my heart.  It is simply undeniable how great and glorious our God is.  He has a plan for our lives grander than we can imagine, grander than we can achieve on our own two feet.  He desires for us to reciprocate His characteristics.

As a reader it is clear that as Allen is writing to the public, she is intimately communicating with God.  She writes, “While my prosperity is a gift, I am the dispenser of my gift…use me to recklessly save, recklessly heal, recklessly love” (pp. 175-176).  She incorporates Father Kaj Munk’s words:

What, therefore, is our task today? Should I answer “Faith, hope and love?” That sounds beautiful.  But I would say–courage.  No, even that is not challenging enough to be the whole truth.  Our task today is recklessness.  For what we Christians lack is not psychology or literature…we lack a holy rage–the recklessness which comes from the knowledge of God and humanity.  The ability to rage when justice lies prostrate on the streets, and when the lie rages across the face of the earth..a holy anger about the things that are wrong in the world.  To rage against the ravaging of God’s earth and the destruction of God’s people. To rage when little children must die of hunger, while the tables of the rich are sagging with food.  To rage at the senseless killing of so many.  to rage against complacency.  To restlessly seek that recklessness that will challenge and seek to change human history until it conforms to the norms of the kingdom of God.

What is it that God desires you to rage for?  What is it He has you recklessly seeking? What makes you so uncomfortable that you have yearned for God’s hand in?

In that place, is the ministry.  In that place, is your holy discontent.   In that place, “your happiness meets the world’s greatest need” (Frederick Buechner).

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A great song to start your quiet time with God, asking “What makes me hurt?  What do you desire of me in this?” : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6B1Lv8k5pEc

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January 5, 2014

With the New Year here, I find myself asking my friends, “How did God marvelously finish your year?” “Has God approached you with a vision or mission for this year?” However, the responses have been utterly disappointing.  To me, that is.

I have friends telling me of a single event that made the lasting impression.  I do not have friends delighting in the characteristic of God they just became familiar with.  I do not have friends in awe of the wondrous plan He has in store for them.

Now, I hope this is not accurate, but it is how I have been led to think.

Do Christians accept that God’s Word is True, but allow it to simply rest on a book shelf as any other non-fiction or biographical piece of literature does?

My Coast Kids Kindergarden-1st graders are quizzed each Sunday, “Is everything in the Bible true, or is it fake?” They always answer with their mightiest voices, “TRUE!”

“And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, ‘Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven'” (Matthew 18:2-4).

However, it is my concern tonight that we live believing that God did perform miracles, and forget that He is today.  As Christians we are blessed that Jesus became our answer to Old Testament laws; however, that does not differ how our God pleases closeness and obedience to Him, “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings” (Hosea 6:6).

God desires our attention.  He wants to take our burdens upon Himself so that we are able to do greater works.

Jennie Allen puts it this way (Anything: The Prayer that Unlocked my Heart and My Soul, 2011, pp. 176):

We give our lives to him and he gives our lives away.  Nothing on earth is more fun and more full than being distributed by an all-knowing, compassionate God who knows exactly where our ridiculously blessed lives would be best spent.

How is it that Christians call themselves God-fearing followers, emptied at the altar, renewed by the redemptive power of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection; and yet, “Christians” live day-to-day without acknowledging the presence of God in their lives.  I sincerely hope that all of the friends I spoke with would agree that God is within them by the Holy Spirit, but I tremble to think they might not radically believe that God, Maker of the universe is within them.

What is most attractive, more than anything in the world, to me is this: someone who spends more time in communication with God than anyone else.  God seeks our obedience.  God desires our love.  But more than anything, on my heart right now is this, He is willing to dream greater things for our lives than we could ever ask of Him.  His vision is stupendous–for He literally sees absolutely EVERYTHING!

May we be people living life abundantly, full of joy, giving, and celebration.  May we understand that Jesus was, is, and will continue to be God in the flesh, “a person you talk to and listen to and love and respect… the person who defines my life, sweeps in and changes me… Jesus existed to please his father” (Allen, pp. 169).

How do we expect to please God if we are not willing to spend time listening to God?

Great men and women of God have transformed the mundane, turning neighborhoods into mission fields, parenting into launching the next generation of God’s voices, legal work into loving those most hurting, waiting tables into serving and loving in such a way that people see our God.  Jesus says the way we glorify God, the way we step into his story, is by accomplishing the work God gives us to do…it was what we were made for (Allen, pp. 165).

Challenge yourself this day, this week, this year, this short life we have here doing God’s mission in a dark place.  Challenge yourself to live not for yourself, but fully surrendered for God’s purpose!

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January 4, 2014

Notes taken from Michael Hidalgo’s sermon on November 11, 2012 at Denver Community Church.

Ecclesiastes 2:17-26; 4:7-8; 5:10-12; Genesis 2:15

Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 303:

Throughout the world, form the great houses of Arabia to the palatial dwellings in the mountains of Lebanon, and from Europe to America, the more wealth people acquire, the farther they generally withdraw from their neighbors.

Rabbi Harold Kushner in his, When All You’ve Ever Wanted Isn’t Enough (p. 53, 54), says this about Hell,

Hell is having worked so hard for success that it corroded your relationships with other people, so that you learned to see them only in terms of what they could do for you.

Pastor Michael then continues to say, “Hell is this isolation, this purposelessness, this darkness that seems to overwhelm.”

One thing I really appreciate about Michael’s gift as a pastor is his dedication to growing in knowledge and understanding to nurture and use God’s gifts as best as he can.  Having that said, Michael incorporates the Hebrew and Greek translations into his sermons on a regular basis.

Throughout the sermon, he reminds us that the English dictionary is so rich with words that several words are used to mean the same thing.  Whereas in the Hebrew language, multiple meanings are used for the same word.  In addition, the same word possesses multiple meanings for the noun and verb tense.

Therefore, in Ecclesiastes 2, the same Hebrew word is used to mean toil, wealth, and misery.  Ironic, right?

The same thing that American (predominantly) aspire to become masters of is what leads us to idolize our wealth, and when misfortune comes, misery comes along with it.

I really like Michael’s separation of Heaven and Hell, as we approach our work:

We are created in the image and likeness of a God who places us in a garden to work it, and to care for it.  So the question becomes, ‘what’s your garden? Where is the place God has uniquely put you so that you could experience the joy of becoming more like Him in your creating, your making, and your shaping?…We were created to create.

Frederick Buechner says, “vocation is the place where your happiness meets the world’s greatest need.” Michael follows that with, “We were created to have our work of our hands be something that brings worship and connection to God and to others.”  May we each find what we are most skilled at that would most benefit the world around us.

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January 1, 2014

In just two hours of the ball dropping in Time Square (in Western time zone), God already moved in BIG ways.

Yesterday evening I was invited to a game and worship experience to celebrate the New Year.  As the clock approached 11pm the group of 30-50 people broke into small prayer groups.  We opened the transitional period to God’s movement.  Expecting this year to bring Him great joy and honor.

At 12:01 a.m. we began to worship! The hosts included three brothers (ages 13-mid twenties), who led the praise.

Isn’t that beautiful? Making God the center of all our celebrations, rather than limiting it to the three days designed to thank Him, accept the sacrifice of Jesus, and celebrate Jesus’ birthday.

The first thing God spoke to me in the New Year is this:

He reigns over everything I do and am involved in, and yet I have freedom in it.  He is my greatest master, and yet, He treats me nothing like a slave.  I am not burdened by shackles, but overjoyed by serving a God who feeds me with His wisdom, kindness, and strength.  He is the most high ruler of all, and I am His daughter.

The second was of His beautification.  I have never seen something so marvelous in all of my years! It was an upside down firework, a shooting star, not flying across the sky but rather in a downward dive.  I cannot explain what this truly was, but as I drove in the thick fog only one thing appeared, and it was a marvelous moment of light. A design in the sky that moved delicately with such force, similar to that of God’s nature.  God demonstrated His gentle touch in the way of which He designed this earth and His people.  His mighty force may resemble the anger brought down on earth by storms in the Old Testament, but is also the authoritative figure that He is, Ruler of all that is and will be.

The third: a miracle! My best friend felt sick at the event so I drove us home in her mother’s car.  However, the Fiat did not audibly warn us our gas tank needed filling before we entered Camp Pendleton, where we drove for 17 miles on an empty tank.  We were worshiping and praying out loud, which she is uncomfortable doing.  Perhaps, God intentionally made her uncomfortable to demonstrate the goodness that comes from asking for His guidance and protection.

Although the floods date Before Christ, perhaps, the mentioning of the exact dates of the progression of the waters beneath the ark of Noah’s household is another way for us to recognize the celebration of God at the very beginning of the year.

After approximately 204 days in the ark, floating above the land they once tended to, God wiped the earth clean and made it available to Noah, his family, and each of the creatures once more:

And it came to pass in the six hundred and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month, that the waters were dried up from the earth; and Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and indeed the surface of the ground was dry” (Genesis 8:13).

Perhaps it is so that life after the floods was the grandest of all New Year celebrations.  God commanded the attention on that initial day of the year, as He removed the water and permitted life to grow once more.

May God be the one you allow to map out the year that is now here.  Happy New Year!

A good song of praise that recognizes God’s place in everything: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-BQpl_5Q6T4

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