Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Too unimportant for God?

At my last Bible study meeting, there was a discussion about feeling like some things are too unimportant to bother God with. Some people wonder why they should even bother God about their to do list or routine activities. Why would God care about cleaning the house or grocery shopping? Surely he has better things to do than to help me remember to pick everything up that is needed for dinner tonight. House chores are too mundane to warrant God's interest or power.

I definitely feel that way at times. Why bother God with cleaning the bathrooms? Perhaps it could change my sense of dread to one of encouraging connection with God, but it seems silly that God would want to join me as I clean the sinks. Could all of the humdrum housework that I loathe at times actually obtain some flecks of pleasantness if I invited God to help change my attitude? I don't know. Am I afraid that he won't show up so why bother asking?

And if these things are too small for God, then at what point is something large or important enough for God to make an appearance? A fussy child? A work review? A fight with a friend? A shortage of finances to pay the bills? What is the tipping point from the obscure to important?

And, if things can be too small for God, can they also be too big? Is cancer something that God just can't handle? Might I send up a small prayer about my ill friend but then not expect God to do something?

We definitely tend to live this way at times. It's certainly human nature to try and handle things on our own, especially those "small" things. But why do we really do it? Do we want to feel like we have a sense of control? Is that why big things like illness, where we can't possibly do anything to help, are when we usually seek God? We think that if we ought to be able to handle it, then we should? Or do we not trust God enough? Are we afraid that we'll offer up our small need and he'll bat it away as unimportant to him? Are we worried that he won't come through when we need him to? Do we have such small faith that we don't know that we can really trust him with any are of our lives? And what about when we do pray about a sick family member and, instead of a miraculous healing, they die? Does that mean that God didn't hear us? That he didn't care? Or perhaps that's when we are supposed to trust that God's ways are higher than ours and his understanding is greater than ours? Are we to trust that God truly does desire good things for us and has a hope and a future for us (that may be different from the one we've imagined)?

We sometimes think that God should be reliable like a math equation. If we pray this way (A), then this (B) will happen. We don't like having to trust that whatever is best will happen, especially if it's not what we want. Who says that getting that promotion will be better for my family than not? Who says that the added salary and accompanying responsibilities won't take away from spending time with them and investing in my children? Who says that temporary hardships won't lead to lasting joy?

What about you: Are there things in your life that are too small or too big for God?

Ephesians 1 (Confidence in God's love)

In this week's study of The Frazzled Female, we were invited to read Ephesians 1 (below).

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God,

To the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus:

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will - to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment - to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ.

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God's possession - to the praise of his glory.

For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray also that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is like the working of his mighty strength, which he exerted in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

That's a lot of reading, but I was so encouraged to hear these truths and to have them penetrate my being. I was reminded that I am God's child, an heir with Christ, "according to his pleasure and will". I have been redeemed, my sins have been forgiven, and I have been given wisdom from God. I have been marked with a seal that guarantees my inheritance. I needed to be reminded of God's love for me and his pleasure in me. He did and does many things because he loves me. I can trust him and count on him to come through for me. He is on my side and desires to be active in my life.

After reading the chapter, I couldn't help but praise God and give thanks for all of my blessings and for his provisions for me. I poured out my heart to him in prayer and thanksgiving, confident that he wanted to hear it all and has an interest in me and my life.

When you read Ephesians 1, how do you feel and respond?

The Frazzled Female

I have joined a women's Bible study that a woman in my neighborhood has started. There are just three of us, but I am excited about getting to know the two other women. We all live on the same side of the neighborhood. I don't know that I would have met them had we not all decided to be a part of this group. I have met a lot of people through playing tennis, but I am always interested in getting to know more!

We have started going through a study called The Frazzled Female. I wasn't really sure what I was going to think of the book. Then I started reading the first section. It was all about thinking about God throughout the day and inviting him to be a part of everything I do. I almost laughed out loud because I had just been challenged through church and the Soul Revolution study to find ways to continue to remember God's presence. Here I was given the opportunity to continue to learn about ways to do just that. I am very convinced that it was an affirmation from God that I was doing what he wants me to do. I am continuing to try to grow in my relationship with him and, at the same time, connecting to people around me in my community.

Give the Light

Sunday was week two of the Light series at church. Neal spoke this week. Below are my notes. Feel free to hear the whole thing at our website.

Givealight.org - organization in Chad (21st largest country in world, 5th poorest)
>Not much electricity so group is trying to get lights to families so that kids can study at night and hopefully this will help people and families to get out of poverty.
>Bogolight - flashlight that is charged with solar energy
>Slogan: "A light that will never go out."

Luke 2:8-20
>The shepherds had a choice to make after the angels left - go ahead and find the baby or stay on the hill where they were.
>Not only did they go, but they then told others what they had seen and heard.

We can give the light through our motives, mission, and message.
>To whom am I giving the light? What are my 3 Ms?

Matthew 19:30
>Story about shepherds in India

God can do big stuff if we are willing to give the light. How often do we receive the light (in messages, small groups, worship)? How often do we then give the light?

I really enjoyed this message and the reminder that we are to share what we learn and know of God. God is not just for me. He is for the world and wants the world to know him. I am not benefiting anyone by keeping what I know to myself. It seems really silly to be afraid of what others may think. I have seen God work in my life and know that he cares about each one of us. Why wouldn't I want to encourage others to invite God into their lives to work in them as well?

60-60 Conclusion

Well, the 60-60 experiment officially ended on December 11th. Of course, we were challenged not to actually end the experiment and stop trying to draw closer to God throughout the day. We were just freed from the beeps/alarms if we so choose. I am super excited that I don't have to wear my sports watch every day. It certainly wasn't the best fashion statement, but God didn't care and, really, neither did I.

So now what? I definitely enjoyed the challenge of trying to spend more time throughout the day with God and being shown just how short I fall on most days. I don't want to return to morning and night only like I had tended to do previously. It would be awesome to be conscious of God hourly (or even more frequently). The rub is that it is hard to develop that habit and sometimes I struggle with wanting to put forth such effort. However, I am continuing to learn that all of my efforts will always fall short. I need to be asking God to help remind me of his presence and to seek him in all things.

I do want (and need) to put practices in place that will help me to think of God more often. I have thought about using my cell phone screen to post a banner or picture that reminds me of God. Perhaps little post it notes on the bathroom mirror or in my car. I remember once a while ago thinking that it would be awesome to have a watch that said "Pray" on the face. I still think that would be great, but have not found one. Perhaps if it's possible to engrave watch faces, that would work. Or, of course, I could always purchase and engrave a pocket watch, but that's not as practical.

Anyway, I am glad that I participated in the experiment and hope that I will continue to grow in this area. If you participated, what did you get out of it? If you haven't, do you think this is something you might enjoy trying?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Shine the Light

We've started a new series called Light for the Christmas holiday. Below are my notes from the message on Sunday. You can listen to it here.

John 1:9 - The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

John 8:12 - When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."

In Medieval times, during the Christmas season, Christ followers would light a candle and place it in a prominent place (such as a window) to remind them that the light of the world (Jesus) has come.

Isaiah 9:1a,2 - Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress...The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.

John 1:4-5 - In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John 3:19 - Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.

It is easy to make decisions for others; much harder for oneself. When it's your struggle/temptation/decision, you can feel the pull of the darkness.

People doing things in darkness don't want the light shining on them.

As Christ followers, we are supposed to shine the light into the world.

Matthew 5:14-16 - "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."

Challenge: Think of ways you can shine the light of Jesus this Christmas season.