Friday, April 28, 2006

Ooooh - How Scary!

Ok, i have to admit that i'm starting to get somewhat attached to my local Christian radio station. And this morning one of the hosts said something i really needed to hear.

He was talking about how most of us from time to time will feel insecure about one thing or another, and he said that the reason we have these thought is - get this - satan is terrified of us.

Stan knows that if we really do step out in courage and do the things God has called and gifted us to do, he's in trouble. I just really needed to hear that today and i thought maybe someone else did too. Its encouraging to think that, most likely, the problem isn't that i'm unqualified for the things that i'm trying to do, but that i am actually a threat to the enemy's plans!

For a second i thought maybe it was prideful to think this - i've been taught not to take the devil lightly. But it all make sense when you remember that "greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world." So maybe it's not that satan is afraid of me as much as he is afraid of me empowered by God's Spirit. But ultimately that leads me to the same place: emboldened by the thought that i can actually do some damage!

On that thought, i'm getting to work on this week's sermon :)

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Healing the Sick is Humanly Possible, Paying for it Takes a Miracle

I'm not certain if other countries have to deal with this or not, but something i'm noticing here in the States is that, for some of us, we have less fear of dying of illness than we do of drowining under medical bills.

Recently, when i hear about someone in the hospital, I almost feel more burdened to pray that their insurance will cover everything than i am to pray that they'll recover. Why? Recovery is almost taken for granted. We have such incredible medical care available that few things are beyond our ability to heal. But our system of paying for it is all out of whack. We have people who are so afraid of the medical bills, that they refuse treatment. In some cases, people will incurr huge costs and still end up dying, leaving their family with the burden. In other cases, a person might recover physically, but lose their home and life savings in the process. Add this to the possibility of having lost his or her job because of inability to work, and you can see how we can be more scared of the bills than of death.

But i feel guilty being more concerned about a person's finances than their health. But in a system like this, maybe its appropriate. I can't imagine hearing a pastor praying for the sick on a Sunday morning, and then having him also pray that God would provide the money for their medical bills, but that day might not be far off.

Lord, if you are willing, you can fix our healthcare crisis.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Joy of Conviction

Christianese translation: Conviction = when God lets you know you've done or are doing something wrong, whether you hear him through other people, through the Bible, or He just speaks to your heart.

Generally you would think this would be an unpleasant experience. But what I've discovered is that often it can be downright delightful under the right circumstances. Generally, it helps if the person being "convicted" actually wants to live in obedience to God. In that case, conviction is an extremely helpful thing - now we know what we need to do. It's also more enjoyable if the person has been somewhat confused beforehand. Conviction is a clear sign of the way to go. Also, conviction reasurres us that God is still working in our lives. And if we listen, that reassures us that we are still following. Ah - isn't that wonderful!

Basically, the pain of guilt is swallowed up in the joy of clarity and reassurance. Who'd have ever thought getting corrected could be this fun?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Lord, Come Quickly -- For the Sake of the Exegetes!

When I was younger, i had a hard time praying for the Lord's soon return because i thought of it in terms of the final judgement. Why would i want my final exam to come any sooner than it absolutely has to?

Over the years, I've basically reversed my position 100%. Not only have i become more secure in my salvation, but I've also done a lot more work in Bible study. The thing that motivates me now is realizing how complicated Biblical interpretation is now, and the thought that it can only get more complicated in the future.

We are nearly 2000 years removed from the most recent segments of scripture, and probably twice that for the oldest parts. The cultural context of the various books of the Bible is often crucial to understanding what the various writers were trying to say. However, the vast majority of us have no idea what that cultural context was like. Yeah, a lot of us pastors read books and commentaries that attempt to explain it, but ultimately we're just trusting someone else to tell us something that we can't verify for ourselves. There's not a whole lot we can do to be sure that the things these scholars are telling us in their books isn't just bunk.

I'm not saying that we should all throw up our hands in despair and say we can't understand what the Bible says because it's too old. We can still understand the Bible well enough. But it's getting tricky, and the fact that many scholars can't be trusted to let the Bible say what it intends to say doesn't help anything.

So now I'm hoping the Lord doesn't wait to much longer, because I'm not sure how much longer accurate Bible interpretation will be able to survive.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

What on earth is a day off!

I hope i'm special. I hope i'm only one of a select few individuals who have this problem. I'd be happy if i was the only one, but that would surprise me.

Taking a day of is a complicated challenge for me. Partly, i don't know what to do with one. Sit around all day doing nothing? Boring! Watch tv? A waste of brain power and I'll probably end up stressed from all the conflicts i've witnessed on the tube. Read books? Too much like what i do the rest of the week, and not really that desirable. At least, not as desirable as work.

The problem is that i actually love work. I love my job. I love getting housework done. I love anything that has a good purpose, which all eventually ends up feeling like work because i feel so strongly that i need to get it done.

If i waste time, i don't feel relaxed, i feel like i've wasted time. If i get things done, i don't feel relaxed, i feel stressed that i didn't get more done. If i sleep, i feel stressed that the whole day is gone. Actually, most things leave me stressed. (yes i know this is a problem)

Part of the problem is that, as a youth pastor, my day off is different than my husbands. If my day off was saturday, this wouldn't be a problem. We'd head out to go hiking or sightseeing or something. Oh, wait. Most fun things require money we'd rather save. Most free things require warm weather that is in precious short supply here in Michigan. And most saturdays he doesn't really have "off" either because he has various things he needs to do that he couldn't do the rest of the week while he was at work.

So i sit here in an empty house and try to figure out what a day off is.

The script writer

I've thought about this one before but i was reminded of it again last night watching Stargate. Jack was driving me nuts because he gave up on getting back to earth, and let himself fall in love with this woman on this planet he got stranded on. The whole time, the rest of the team on earth, and especially Sam, were investing all their effort in finding a way to get back to that planet to get Jack back. Apparently Sam loved Jack more than Jack loved Sam, or maybe Jack honestly thought it was impossible. I have to admit that he was stranded there for several months. Anyway I found myself asking "doesn't he realize that there is a script writer? Doesn't he realize that of course they're going to find a way to get him back - because the script writer will make it happen?" Stupid questions, i know. Of course Jack has no idea he is a fictional character whose script writer will not allow anything permanently bad to happen to him.

But once again i was reminded how many of us forget that God is arranging the details of our lives a lot like a script writer does. Jack would have never given up hope of getting back to earth if he knew the plot was being designed by someone who wanted him to get back home. How many things would we see differently if we realized that God was running the show?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

I'm Ba-ack!

Ok, this post is based on the potentially flawed and pride-induced assumption that someone out there reads this blog regularly and has missed it these past several weeks. But i guess it's possible so i'll run with it.

Probably not a day passes that i don't think of something i could blog about, but i'm not always at a computer at the time. But, even when i get to a computer, i usually have something else that is both urgent and important to do. So for a while i limited myself to blogging only on my day off. That worked great for a few weeks. Then i discovered that my apartment looks much better if i clean it on my day off instead of blogging and other computer stuff. Then i discovered that cleaning my house takes all day and still doesn't get finished.

So, for the past few weeks my house has been much cleaner but the blog has been neglected. I guess it was worth it. But now i have a few minutes to blog about some of the things that have been simmering during that time, and to reassure my hypothetical regular readers that i do still exist and i don't intend to neglect the blog forever.

So what's been going on in my head?

  • I read (for a class) Steve DeNeff's book Whatever Became of Holiness, which i highly reccommend to any Christian who seeks to follow God with his or her whole heart. I'm not sure if anyone's ever heard of this book outside of the Wesleyan denomination, but it is incredible. If you're anything like me it will make you seriously stop and think about where you are in your Christian life, and it will make you thirst for more.
  • I've been pondering why our American culture has so many areas where direct communication is inappropriate. This makes it very difficult, it seems, to establish honest, open relationships or to address and solve many problems.
  • I've wondered whether gardening is a spiritual exercise or just a hobby.
  • I've discovered that blogging makes you especially succeptible to pride. You only blog if you assume that someone else will want to read what you say. Often you blog because you think other people would be better off if they would read what you have to say. And after you've been blogging for a while you start to wonder if it could lead to a career as an author. Even if you didn't have any desire to be an author before - you can end up fancying you'll be the next Donald Miller.
  • I've wondered if buying an MP3 player would be an act of spiritual discipline because it would allow me to listen to Christian music that i enjoy in my car (as opposed to the radio options of oft-questionable secular music or christian radio that annoys me), or if it would be yet another frivolous purchase in the face of world hunger.
  • I've wondered if buying a nice, new, leatherbound Bible would be an act of worship (since a nice Bible honors the sacredness of the Scriptures), or if it would be frivolous (see above) or prideful (look at me, i'm such a nice Christian, i have this nice pretty Bible).
  • I've wondered whether keeping my house clean is a spiritual discipline or a distraction from seeking God and His kingdom.