Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Give Us Daily Bread

Here is week three of the God's Blog series. I was gone for week two so feel free to go to the website to hear it (Your Kingdom Come). Below are my notes from this past weekend.

Give Us Daily Bread

Matthew 6:11
We are so self-reliant. We don't like others to pay for us (our meals, etc). We save money so that when we retire no one else has to care for us.

The prayer is continual. NLT - Give us today the food we need.
>A man can no more take in a supply of grace for the future than he can eat enough today to last him for the next six months, nor can he inhale sufficient air into his lungs with one breath to sustain life for a week to come. We are permitted to draw upon God's store of grace from day to day as we need it. Dwight L. Moody
>What do you need daily from God to stay alive physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
Exodus 16:4-5, 11-30, 31,35 manna = what is it?
>God knows what we need and provides it at just the right time; he is our sustainer.
>What do I need each day to live?

The prayer is contentment.
>Proverbs 30:8-9
>We want what we want when we want it.
>>Revelation 3:17
>Real contentment is needing nothing apart from God.

The prayer is communal.
>We have no right to ask for anything for ourselves that would harm others.
>Basil the Great quote
>1 John 3:17
>>Sometimes meeting the physical needs is most important.
>I like to ask people from developing countries what they think heaven will be like. Most of them say, 'It will be a place where I don't need to worry about food and I won't hear my children cry because they are hungry.' Steve Hanson
>John 6:47-58

Our Father In Heaven

A few weeks ago we started a new message series called God's Blog: What God Wants Us To Know About Prayer. Here is the first week. You can hear it and all of the subsequent weeks here. Below are my notes.

Our Father In Heaven

Live the Lord's prayer
Matthew 6:5-8 -> how NOT to pray
>Look at how kids interact with a good father

>It's plural, communal
>Prayer is never solitary. We are with Jesus and all others who follow him. Eugene Peterson
>We can trust God; he keeps our conversations confidential

>OT title referencing father of nations (nationally)
>NT, Jesus first to use it personally (intimate)
>You can approach God anytime, anywhere - he just wants you to do it
>Hebrews 4:16

>Seems like a remote location
>Greek references the atmosphere, the sky, the air - God's all around, present everywhere
>>Closer than the air I breathe; right here, right now
>God is sovereign, he rules all
>>Nothing is too silly or trivial not to pray about

>to attach appropriate value to something

>God's name is not given appropriate worth
>May all people realize your greatness and worth

Prayer is exhaling the spirit of man and inhaling the spirit of God. Edwin Keith

What do you want?

I have been reading The Rest of God by Mark Buchanan. It's a somewhat slow read as I try to fit it in during Kaitlyn's nap time. But that works because it's a one-chapter-a-day kind of book. Today I was reading a chapter called "Stopping to Listen to God" or something along those lines. The challenge (there's a Sabbath Liturgy at the end of each chapter) was to find one of the questions God asks in the Bible and think about it and answer it as if God were asking you. It had several examples such as, "Who do you say that I am?" and "Who told you that you were naked?"

I decided to start reading John today and came across a question in the first chapter. John sees Jesus and says, "Behold, the Lamb of God." Two of his followers then go over to Jesus to become his followers. Jesus asks them, "What do you want?" I thought that was a pretty good answer to think about and respond to. I ended up with a long list which I will try to reproduce most of here.

Jesus: What do you want?

Me: I want to spend more time in prayer. I want to read the Bible regularly. I want to learn more scripture so that it is "hidden in my heart" because I know that the mouth speaks from the overflow of the heart. I want to be a good wife, mother, daughter, sister, aunt, friend... I want to use my time wisely. I want the book to be used for God's purposes. I want to know you more. I want to be full of joy and I want my joy to be evident to all. I want to know and do God's will. I want to be who God created me to be. I want to not worry about what other people think of me. I want to have more authentic conversations. I want to not have reservations about sharing my life - praises, joys, fears, failures - with others. I want abundant life.

What about you? What do you want?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Running Ahead of God

Here is the last week of the series. Click here to listen to it.

JONAH: Running Ahead of God

Chapter 4
"My way or the highway"
Jonah's angry at God because he's so loving and merciful.
>Self-advancing: everything is about him
>>He wanted to advance his reputation as a prophet, not allow the Ninevites to repent and receive mercy from God.
>Comprehension and compromise
>>This world is bigger than my life; God has much more in mind than just me.
>>Sometimes God wants to do things that are different than what we have in mind to do.
>>Wanting what's best overall versus just for me.

>>Is God enough? Or are we focused on something else?
>Concern (for others)

>>"My way versus the higher ways" Isaiah 55:8-9 (NLT)
>>C.S. Lewis: "Humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of your self less."

Approx 700,000 people in Cobb County; approx 280,000 who don't know Jesus (which is approximately 20,000 in Acworth/Kennesaw)
>Having compassion for those who don't know Jesus.
>Talking to others about God and Jesus.

This message really got me thinking about how little I talk about God with others. There are a few people (Christians) that I talk about it a lot with, but not really with acquaintances, neighbors, etc. When I went to Spain in 2002, I was studying with about twenty other people, all essentially strangers at the beginning. I had just had a renewing of my faith that summer and so I was really interested in talking with others about their beliefs and what they think about God and Jesus. During my three and a half months there, I had a faith conversation with every other student on the trip. It wasn't an intimidating thing and occurred fairly naturally. I even helped form a Bible study with a few other of the students while we were there. What happened that I have stopped desiring to know what other people think and share what I believe? I really did enjoy that season and desire to begin being more open again.

Running With God

Here's week three of the series. If you want to hear Neal's whole message, click here.

JONAH: Running With God

Chapter 3
Roy Reagles - 1929 Rose Bowl
-He didn't allow this mistake to define the rest of his life.

Jonah gets a chance to change.

Jonah complied to the call.
-Do we ever think, "I should be able to run my own life?"
-Roger Staubach: "I faced up the the issue of obedience. Once I learned to obey there was harmony, fulfillment and vicctory."

Many people suffered for the cause of Christ. Why do we think that we won't be called to suffer as well?
What is your Ninevah? Where are you being called to go and minister?

Jonah completed the cycle of compassion.
-"Who knows?" > How are we to know what God might do when we are obedient and faithful?

Jonah's Report: They accepted being admonished.
Ninevah's Response: They acted in accordance.
Ninevah's Reward: They avoided God's anger.

I really liked the reminder that we don't know what God might do to a situation if we are obedient and faithful to him regardless of the circumstances. God can do anything, even that which seems impossible. My job is to trust him and act accordingly.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

In Too Deep

Here is week two of our current series. The notes are few because about halfway through Kaitlyn got a little fussy and I left service with her. To hear how it ends, click here.

JONAH: In Too Deep

Chapter 2
Jonah prayed inside the fish - what else did he have to do?
Jonah doesn't receive a dramatic rescue - he's unceremonially vomitted onto the beach.
God is up to something great.
The book of Jonah is a comedy, a book of hope.

Multiple parallels between Jonah and Jesus:
>both sleeping on a boat when a storm came
>both provided the means to calm the storm

--There are more, but I had to leave. I found that part of the message very intriguing.

I like the reminder that sometimes our only job is to pray (there's nothing else we can do but pray in certain circumstances). Feeding Kaitlyn provides me with large chunks of time where prayer could be the best use of my time. I really need to take more advantage of this allotted time.

On the Run

We started a new series at church on May 16th. It was also our last Sunday at that location. We had to move to a different middle school for the summer due to renovations. Hopefully we can find our own building before we have to make another temporary move. Only God knows - and I'm praying about it. Below are my message notes. You can listen to the audio version here.

JONAH: On the Run

Chapter 1
"The word of the Lord came"
>God speaks to us as well
>Many times He tells us to do something we don't want to do
Nahum > Ninevah is "the city of blood"

Jonah ran away from God's task
>He didn't want to do what God said (and neither do we at times)
>In Jonah's day it would have taken a year to get to Tarshish
>Maybe you're drifting away rather than running
Hebrews 4:13 - you can't hide from God

Sometimes when you're on the run God will send a storm into your life.
We believe our personal sin or rebellion won't affect or harm others.
Jonah decided that he'd rather die than continue running from God.
>It's exhausting trying to keep your sin covered.

The Lord provided for Jonah.
Jonah couldn't get away from God. The Lord pursued him and chased after him.
God wants us to run toward him and with him.

Is there any area in my life where I am resisting or running away from God?

I thought that this was a really good message. Especially the acknowledgement that our sin and decisions won't affect others. God created us to be in community. Therefore, when we don't fulfill our role, we are harming the community. It should spur us to do what God has called us to do with our talents and gifts so that our community will not lack for what we can provide.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

It's been a long time...

I promise I haven't given up blogging. I had a baby in March which has taken up all of my time since then. I don't know if I mentioned that I was pregnant, but now I'm a mom! Pretty crazy. But also pretty awesome. My little girl was born four weeks early, but she was strong and healthy and we were pretty much ready for her arrival. My husband's work had thrown a shower the day before and given us a Pack-n-Play which has come in quite handy.

I had a c-section because baby girl was breech so it was a while before I got to see and hold her. Not my ideal birthing experience. Because of the way KB came into the world, I didn't really feel overwhelming love for her. There was definitely an instant care and concern wanting her to be okay and checking her during the first night to make sure she was still breathing (I still do that when she sleeps for long stretches at night). It didn't feel like love, but I guess love for a child is different than the romantic love I have been used to experiencing with my husband. I should be comparing it more to how I feel about my parents and brother, I suppose (I'm just now working this out in my mind).

My parents came for a few weeks and were a lot of help. It was nice when it became just the three of us so that we could start working on a routine. We're definitely getting there. KB is sleeping more at nights (awesome) and I am figuring out the best times to do certain tasks during the day. I'm going to start transitioning back to work on Monday so that will be interesting. Yesterday I tested out the infant carrier that allows KB to be attached to me and gives me two free hands. That may come in quite handy in the office (I'm very blessed to be able to take her with me when I go back).

Adam's parents, sister, and nephews (almost 4 and 19 months) arrived yesterday. They wore KB out with their energy and excitement which helped her to sleep for 8(!) hours last night. I was anticipating their arrival and looking forward to having others to entertain her while I was able to do other things (like write a blog entry, eat a hot breakfast, and shower). While that is a benefit, I have also found something I didn't anticipate: mommy protectiveness. I'm watching the boys interact with her and trying not to jump in to the situation. She starts getting a little fussy and I want to take her from whoever is holding her and cuddle her. She starts yawning and I want to lay her down right away instead of allowing her to interact with family a bit longer. I actually started missing being alone with her. Quite a surprising revelation to me. At the same time I am glad that everyone is here and getting to spend time with KB. I will probably miss some of the break I am getting but am glad to know how strong my feelings for KB are.

Related to the main theme of the blog, I really haven't had any structured quiet time since KB has been born. I've been able to do a little reading here and there. Most of my prayers have been about KB - gaining weight, eating well, etc. I went to prayer group on Thursday which was quite beneficial and encouraging. It helped me to see that there are plenty of opportunities for prayer - about every three hours when it's time to feed KB are wonderful opportunities. I knew that everything would change in this regard, and am working to figure out the best method for my changed schedule. I definitely want to return to verse memorization. In the early weeks when KB was fussy I was trying to recall verses to share with her and realized that my recollection has decreased. So that's a goal now.

I promise that all future posts will not be about motherhood, but that's now my life so it will definitely be part of it. Hopefully I will also be able to make time to talk about what I'm learning and experiencing and share with with you here. Thanks for not giving up on me!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Living Beyond Myself...Week 4

Here is the last message of our most recent series. To hear the whole thing, or to hear about Jeff's trip to Ecuador with Compassion International, click here.

The Power of Doing Good

Einstein quote: The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don't do anything about it.

WHY should we do good?
>It is God's destiny for us.
>Ephesians 2:10: For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
>God wants to bless the world but will do it only through other people.

Hebrews 10:24: And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

2 Thessalonians 3:13: And as for you, brothers, never tire of doing what is right.

Matthew 5:16: Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Titus 3:1,8,14: Remind the be ready to do whatever is good,...those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone....Our people must learn to devote themselves to doing what is good, in order that they may provide for daily necessities and not live unproductive lives.

1 Timothy 6:17-19: Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

Luke 6:31-35: "Do to others as you would have them do to you. If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners', expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."

Romans 12:20-21: On the contrary: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink."...Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

If you are alive, God has things he wants you to do.

WHERE should we do good?
>Wherever we are where goodness needs to be done.

HOW should we do good?
>Discover and develop our spiritual gift, putting it into play.
>However the Spirit leads you.

Dr. Albert Schweitzer: Keep your eyes open for the little tasks - because it is the little kind tasks that are important to Jesus Christ.

John Wesley: Do all the good you can, By all the means you can, In all the ways you can, In all the places you can, At all the times you can, To all the people you can, As long as ever you can!

As a challenge from the message, we were all given envelopes with a task inside that would lead us to do good to someone around us. It was interesting that my task was perfectly fitted to my gifting. Adam's was something that would fit into his normal routine. I wondered if anyone got one that was outside of their skill set or comfort zone. Neal said that he switched with another person because hers was something that didn't fit, as was his, but switching them created a much better fit. Interesting to me.

This series has really been good at getting me to think about how I spend my time and challenging me to look beyond myself to the needs of others. I hope that I will continue to look for ways to serve others in small (and sometimes big) ways. No task is to small to be a good deed.

Living Beyond Myself...Week 3

I know I'm a little behind getting this posted, but I've had a busy last few weeks of February.

Just Jump In!

Every time the rooster crowed, for the rest of Peter's life, he was reminded of his thrice denial of Jesus.

John 21:2-9

v7: When Peter learned it was the Lord, he jumped into the water to get to Jesus.
>What do you think the interaction was like between Peter and Jesus after the resurrection?

v12-17: Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves him (once for every denial?)
>To reconcile their relationship.
>He gave Peter things to do to show his love for Jesus (serve my people).
>>We see in the rest of Peter's life that he served all out.

Dr. David Alan Black quote

>Words are attractive but deeds speak louder than words.

So obviously there aren't a lot of notes. This tends to happen when Neal speaks because he tells stories and I tend to spend my time listening rather than jotting down my thoughts. You can listen to the whole message here. I had not previously noticed that Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved him could be the symbolic act of canceling out his previous denials - a restitution of sorts. Neal pointed out that the Scripture notes that Peter was hurt that Jesus asked him THREE times about his love. That hurt was probably a minuscule amount of what Jesus felt when Peter denied him.

I enjoyed the reminder that we are to show our love of Jesus through our actions and our lives. Serving others should be the response to our love for Jesus. I need to constantly consider, "Are my actions indicating that I love Jesus?"

Monday, February 15, 2010

How Quickly We Forget

This morning I was reading 1 Kings 18-19. It was a great reminder of how quickly we are able to forget God's work in our lives, especially when we allow our circumstances to appear bigger than God.

Elijah is the example in these two chapters. God tells Elijah to go to Ahab, who had been killing all of God's prophets at the command of Jezebel. Elijah did just as God had told him to do. He met Obadiah who worked in the palace and told him to bring Ahab to meet him. Obadiah was hesitant because he knew that Ahab had been trying to kill Elijah for some time and was afraid that it would happen (Obadiah had actually hidden 100 prophets in caves so that they would be spared.), but he does what Elijah requests.

Elijah then challenges the prophets of Baal to a test to see whose God was the true God. He set the parameters and invited the Baal prophets to go first. They tried nearly all day to get Baal to respond, but to no avail. When evening came, Elijah called upon God to show that he was the one true living God and he did. Elijah then had all of the prophets of Baal killed. He also told Ahab that there would be rain (there had been a famine in the land) which God provided.

The next day Ahab reported all that had happened to Jezebel who responded by sending a death threat to Elijah. In response, Elijah ran for his life. He ran far out into the desert where he asked God to kill him. God sent angels to care for him and send him on to Mount Horeb where God himself appeared to Elijah. When asked by God what he was doing, he lamented that he had been faithful to God but was now the only prophet of God still living and was being hunted down as well. In response, God gave him tasks that he was to complete.

I got a lot out of this passage this morning. My observations were the following:

>God had just burned up the altar to prove that he was the living God and not 24 hours later Elijah was afraid of a woman who worshiped a god that didn't exist. He had trusted God to keep him safe when going to a man who had killed most of the other prophets of God, but didn't trust him to keep him safe when receiving a specific threat.

>Obadiah had told Elijah that he had saved one hundred prophets and yet Elijah is whining that he is the only one left. Did he not hear what Obadiah had said? He was stuck in self-pity land.

>Elijah whines to God when asked why he had fled and God's response is not to remind him that he's not alone, but to send him off to anoint people to fight on Israel's behalf. He also tells him to anoint Elisha to become prophet after him, which may have helped him to feel that perhaps he wasn't in danger, but hopefully reminded him that God was in control. I mean, God just revealed himself to Elijah on the mountain, if that doesn't bolster faith, there's a problem.

I know that I am guilty of forgetting what God has done for me. I'm sure I have gone from a mountain high to a mountain low in an extremely short period of time. I am sure that God gets frustrated with me when I doubt his goodness or presence. However, I am thankful for the reminder that he will still use me despite myself because he has plans that he is going to see through. Elijah wasn't written off as hopeless. God encouraged him and then sent him off to do more things that God wanted him to do.

Living Beyond Myself...Week 2

Below are my notes from yesterday's message.

What? Me, a Priest?

Many gift cards have the following phrase included on them: "Not good unless redeemed."

Before Jesus, God worked through a select group of people: priests.
The Day of Pentecost: all believers are filled with the Holy Spirit (now every Christ-follower is a priest [has direct access to God]).

1 Peter 2:9
How do we get people to realize that they are priests (able to communicate directly with God)?

1 Peter 4:10
Help them to see their gift.

1 Corinthians 12
Just because you aren't a "major" body part (hand, eye) doesn't mean that you aren't an important and necessary part. Different does not mean insignificant.

Each person is given a gift to show the world who God is (hospitable, compassionate, creative, etc)

v18: God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be.
>We are not to wish we had other gifts because God gifted us specifically.
>We are responsible for determining and developing our gift(s).
>When we choose not to use our gift, the whole body suffers.
>No one has every gift; therefore, we need others to have a complete body.

Kirbyjon Caldwell quote: There are two great moments in a person's life: the moment you were born and the moment you realize why you were born.

Chariots of Fire: God made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.

Complete this for yourself: God made me ________. And when I ________ I feel his pleasure.

I really enjoyed the reminder of the importance of using the gifts we've been given. I think we do sometimes feel like what we have been gifted with is insignificant or not as good or important as gifts others have. It's like Adam said last night watching the NBA All-Star Game, "All athletes want to be musicians and all musicians want to be athletes." Even though they have a great ability, they still desire that of someone else. We, as humans, really struggle with contentment in all areas of our lives. It is encouraging to be reminded that God gave me my gifts specifically. He didn't create me to be an amazing singer. I shouldn't feel inferior to those who are because my gifts are not less important than theirs.

Jeff handed out Gifts Assessments for everyone to fill out in order to discern and then develop the gift(s) they have been given. I took it and found my top three to be Encouraging, Shepherding, and Leadership. I wonder if there will be a more detailed description of the various gifts in the assessment. I have known for quite some time that I have been gifted with Encouragement. I have seen God use me to help others in their faith, especially when they needed a lift. I definitely want to be used more in this area. I should probably pray for an open heart and mind to see opportunities.

If you are interested in taking the assessment, let me know and I'll email it to you.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Living Beyond Myself...Week 1

We have started a new series at church. I wonder if each month will conveniently have its own susinct message (Jan had a 5 week series, this is a 4 week far so good!). Perhaps I'll mention it to Jeff. Without further ado, notes from Sunday's message are below.

The Great Gamble

We all have something inside ourselves that hungers for greatness.

Sepphoris: city in Galilee where people sought wealth, fame, material possessions (makes me think of Dubai).

Matthew 5:13a,14,16
>The city community Jesus was going to build.

John 3:30 "He must become greater; I must become less."

Matthew 20:25-28
Washing feet was such a menial task that even Jewish slaves did not do it. Gentile slaves were given this job.

John 13:4-5;15
Greatness in God's eyes is different from greatness in the world's eyes.

M. Scott Peck quote: Until that moment the whole point of things had been for someone to get on top, and once he had gotten on top to stay on top or else attempt to get farther up. But here this man already on top - who was rabbi, teacher, master - suddenly got down on the bottom and began to wash the feet of his followers. In that one act Jesus symbolically overturned the whole social order."

Acts of kindness, service in love - to be the defining qualitie of Jesus' followers (his community/city)

John 13:14-17
>If it is not too lowly for me (Jesus), it's not to lowly for you (follower).

Acts of service don't have to be huge or spectacular. It can be as "small" as letting someone else go first.

Do you really believe that greatness is defined by service?

Challenge: Do one of two things over the next several months: 1)Live for God's purpose and other people's needs, or 2)Live for yourself and your own needs and purposes. Do it long enough to see its effects and determine whether your life feels fuller or emptier.

Are you going to choose to live FOR or BEYOND yourself?

Frederick Buechner: The life you clutch, hoard, guard, and play safe with is in the end a life worth little to anybody, including yourself, and only a life given away for love's sake is a life worth living.

My thoughts: I really liked the reminder that service doesn't have to be a big weekend project or something that requires traveling to a nonprofit organization to do. Service can be emptying the dishwasher or picking up a piece of trash you come across. Sometimes I don't think about such mundane things as being service, but they are. I am choosing to do these things so that someone else doesn't have to or to serve the better good.
I was trying to figure out where I struggle the most with serving and/or acts of kindness. I realized that I hesitate most when it involves money. Not necessarily giving to an organization, but participating in something that will require me to provide resources for something. For example, I found a Bible study that I think would benefit my friend (and myself) but of course I have to purchase the workbooks. It isn't super expensive, but I noticed that I paused before following through. I know that God has placed me in this person's life to provide encouragement during a difficult season. I know that God has provided us with the ability to purchase nonnecessities. Why do I hesitate to do something for Him (help another) with something that is His (our money)? So that's sort of my challenge to myself - not to avoid opportunities to bless others just because money is involved.
I was a little amused when Jeff offered us both sides of the challenge - to serve others OR ourselves. It sounds kind of absurd to live for ourselves (Do what you want to do. Don't offer to help others. Make sure you get what you need. Don't consider others' needs.) but I know that I am guilty of that at times. I just don't think about how silly and selfish and un-Jesus-like it is. I do wonder if anyone will test out this side. I'm just thankful for the reminder that I can serve in little ways every day. Perhaps it will even help make mundane tasks like cleaning less...mundane. Looking for small ways to serve has already shown me that there's always something that can be done. It has also showed me how I have chosen to be selfish in the past (ouch).

What do you get out of the challenge? Do you feel like you are good at serving and doing acts of kindness every day?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just Say Yes...Part 5

I finally made it through a whole series! Sunday Neal spoke to us about Nehemiah. He showed an awesome video that Adam shared was created and performed by two former NC State grads (The Fabulous Bentley Brothers). Quite entertaining. Check it out here. To hear Neal's message, click here.

Just Say Yes...When You Face Opposition

Nehemiah 1-6

Why do we avoid opposition when it comes to building up the cause of Christ?
Have I ever been a part of something that built up the cause of Christ and created opposition?

Nehemiah was the king's cupbearer in Susa. Jerusalem's walls were destroyed.
Ch 1:3-11 refers to prayer five times

Nehemiah's plan consisted of prayer, preparation, poise and perseverance.
Ch 2:1-8 he prayerfully asks the king for permission to return home and for help with supplies to repair the walls.
v11-16 he inspects the work to be done and v17-18 presents the plan to rebuild to the people who agree

The priests built the first gate as an example to the people. Everybody was involved in rebuilding the walls - everyone has a role to play.

Ch 4 the people were ridiculed and reminded that it would take awhile to complete. Then there were threats of physical violence. v13 they posted guards and continued to work.

"God, make me strong so that I can stand up under the pressure of opposition."

Ch 5 we learn that the Jews had been taking advantage of their countrymen by exacting usury.

We may not be facing opposition because: 1-We're not doing anything to give Satan a reason to be concerned or come against us; 2-we are the opposition; 3-we are not doing anything at all - not complaining, not helping).

Ch 6 rumors were spread to frighten the people. v9-but I prayed.
v15-16 the wall is finished; the surrounding nations are afraid because they knew God had been involved.

Nehemiah worked for 12 years to help restore Jerusalem. Then he returned to Susa as he had promised the king.

His continued efforts made a difference. It wasn't a one day or one time service project.

You have to have a plan if you are going to persevere.

I really liked the reminder that we all are supposed to be doing something to further the cause of Christ. Our response to God didn't end once we accepted Christ - that was just the beginning. The story reminded me that I'm much more likely to be passionate about a cause that is close to home (I can relate to, or is physically near). We all are willing to do what is needed to protect our homes and families and that may be our motivation for our acts of service. Not that it's an excuse not to help people in other countries. We all should be able to relate our need for Christ in our lives to the importance of others all over the world hearing about Jesus' life-giving salvation. We need to remember that we should be constantly serving, not just intermittently.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Modern-day Idols

I have been slowly reading through the Bible (started sometime last year) in between Bible studies. Right now I'm plugging through Isaiah, which has always been an interesting and sometimes confusing book. The other day I was reading in chapter 44 and there's a section about man making idols (verses 6-23).

A carpenter cuts down a tree in a forest. He uses some of the tree for wood in his stove. The other part of the wood he uses to make an idol which he bows down to. God points out the ridiculousness of making something out of wood and then worshiping it and asking it to save you. How can someone think that something they created themselves could have any power of its own? It's like picking up a stick and asking it to help you find a job. People would think you're crazy!

At first, it may not seem like people today make things to worship, however some definitely worship man-made things like money and power and status. While there may not be a shrine in one's home to these things, they still can hold power over a person and be the reason why s/he work so hard or is willing to blur the lines at times. People may not see these things as gods or idols, but they certainly can be.

It makes me wonder, what do I spend my energy, time and money pursuing? Is it something created by this world or is it God?

Isaiah 44:24-26 : "This is what the Lord says - your Redeemer, who formed you in the womb: I am the Lord, who has made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens, who spread out the earth by myself, who foils the signs of false prophets and makes fools of diviners, who overthrows the learning of the wise and turns it into nonsense, who carries out the words of his servants and fulfills the predictions of his messengers."

Just Say Yes...Part 4

Here is this past week's message a few days late. I think that everyone will find it quite relevant. You can listen to it here. Enjoy!

Just Say Yes...When You Have To Wait


We will spend two to three years waiting in line, approximately 6 months waiting at a stop light (maybe more since we live in Atlanta).

Even though we get a lot of practice waiting, we haven't gotten very good at it (In this case, practice doesn't make perfect.).

1 Samuel 16:1-13 : a twelve year old is anointed to become king but God does not give a timeline for when this will happen
>Why didn't God wait to anoint David shortly before he became king?
-->There is something that happens in waiting that is necessary in our becoming who we're supposed to be.
-->If we didn't wait, certain qualities would not be developed in us. (James 1:2-4; Romans 5:3-4)

We are supposed to wait actively.
1 Samueul 17:20-51
>Saul becomes jealous of David and tries to kill him for several years.
1 Samuel 24:3-12
>David knew that it was not his job to take out Saul so that he could become king. He trusted that God would fulfill his plans in his timing.

We are supposed to wait patiently.
>Abraham faced the consequences of his inability to wait on God for a son (Genesis 16).
-->We sometimes try to take God's promise and our plans and cram them together.

We should wait expectantly.
2 Samuel 5:4 : David becomes king nearly two decades after his anointing.
>David's waiting finally ends.
>Psalm 40:1-3
>Isaiah 40:27-31
-->We should have a sense of hope and excitement because we know that God's promise will be fulfilled.

Ultimately we are in a constant state of waiting - for the return of Christ.
>Romans 8:19-25
>Revelation 21:4

A reminder about waiting God is especially relevant in today's culture and economy. We're all about now and fast (Drive-Thrus, Speedos, Quik Trip, Rapid Release medication). At the same time there are many people who are in need of a job and have been playing the waiting game. I liked to reminder that we will always be waiting on something. If we're not waiting on God to lead us to a job, we may be waiting on wisdom regarding a certain situation. Even if everything in our life seems to be going smoothly, there will be an opportunity to wait coming up. It's always something.

For me, I am heading into a season of waiting with the book I'm working on. I am at the point of trying to find a publisher. I will submit summaries and proposals and then have to wait and see if I receive any response. I hope it will be easier to be patient throughout the process knowing that waiting has purpose and should be an expected part of life.

Right now, I suppose I am also sort of waiting to become a parent. I know that it is coming, but I don't know exactly when. In the meantime, I am trying to wait actively by preparing a place for the baby and reading about the various aspects of caring for a child.

What are you waiting for? Have you been able to wait patiently, actively, and expectantly?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

K.I.T. and Facebook

I am once again feeling a little frustrated about the issue of maintaining relationships. This time it's slightly different. I am recently aware of my efforts to contact people and then not receiving a response back. My previous concern was with having to always initiate contact. This new revelation is like the second layer - initiating but then hearing nothing in reply.

I do realize that people are busy. I also know how hard it is to maintain long-distance relationships, especially when you have friendships in your local area that you are trying to maintain. I can't really fault anyone for choosing to spend their time keeping up with those they see over those they used to see. It can be a little difficult for me sometimes to lose once-close friendships. I guess my purpose in blogging about it is to help me deal with the emotions involved with losing friends. Sharing helps me to let go and move on.

I am realizing more and more that Facebook has become a way to appear to maintain contact with others. You "friend" someone because you have known them at some point in your life. You may never visit their page or comment on their status or photos, but you feel like you're still connected. You may decide to look at their info every once in a while, but choose not to leave any indication that you visited. Relationships usually involve communication (specifically two-way) and Facebook (or Myspace - I'm not prejudiced) has helped to disconnect us even more while helping us to think that we're actually more connected. I think it would be interesting if there was a feature that would remove friends from your list if no contact had been made between either party for a certain period of time. I know I'd have a lot fewer "friends".

And that's another thing that irks me but that I am guilty of as well. "Facebook friends" - people that you don't really care to stay in regular contact with but are okay with them learning about your life online. It can really hurt to learn that you have been relegated to "Facebook friend" status when you thought you and the other person were closer than that - this happens when you learn about some major life change/event via the person's status rather than a phone call, email or some other somewhat direct mode of contact. I realize that email can be depersonalized, just like those group Messages people send out through Facebook, but at least they thought about clicking on your address versus skipping over you. Not that this really brings much comfort.

Okay, enough of that for today. I didn't even mention the whole mess of "defriending", which I'm sure will be discussed in a future rant. Until then, just because you never hear from me on Facebook doesn't mean you aren't important to me... (Right?)

Just Say Yes...Part 3

This past Sunday, Neal shared the third installment of our Just Say Yes series. It was quite enthusiastically given and one I think you would enjoy hearing. My notes are below.

Just Say Yes...When You Are Afraid

The Book of Esther

Even when God seems invisible, he's still evident and invincible.

Esther became the Queen (bride of the King) which meant that she received all of the rights and privileges of the royal family.

Esther 4:14-16: For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance for the Jews will arise from another place, but you and your father's family will perish. And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?"Then Esther sent this reply to Mordecai: "Go, gather together all the Jews who are in Susa, and fast for me. Do not eat or drink for three days, night or day. I and my maids will fast as you do. When this is done, I will go to the king, even though it is against the law. And if I perish, I perish."
>Esther's call and response.

Even when Esther was afraid, she still said yes.

We must stop making excuses and start making decisions to just say yes.

Are we living fully in the promises and rights of God's family?

We aren't promised an easy life as Christians, only a great end reward.

Do you realize the full potential of being part of the Royal Family?

Do you believe that God has purposed you for such a time as this?

Matthew 10:28
>God is the only one who matters. Your relationship with him is what ultimately counts.

I really didn't have a lot of notes because I was engrossed in Neal's telling of the story of Esther. He really helped to emphasize God's hand in the events of that time (You can't make this stuff up!) I would strongly encourage you to go listen to it yourself for a fresh hearing of this story. He reminded us that even though God's name is never used in this book (the only book in the Bible in which this is true), you can see him moving throughout the story.

I am really enjoying this series because it is addressing the main excuses we tend to use as to why we can't (or won't) do what God is calling us to do (fear, inadequacy, lack of understanding - the unknown). It has caused me to think about the areas where I don't trust God to fill in my weaknesses or shortcomings. I am being reminded that there is no excuse where God doesn't have a provision waiting for me. The ultimate question is whether I trust that me + God will be able to overcome any obstacle.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Just Say Yes...Part 2

Below is this past week's message notes. I really enjoyed it and think you would too. You can listen to it here.

Just Say Yes...When You Feel Inadequate

Exodus 3-4 (Moses)
>Moses resisted God's call to use him (he even gave 5 reasons why he was inadequate!)
->3:3 "I must turn aside, and see this marvelous sight, why the bush is not burned up." (NASB)
-->Moses did not HAVE to turn aside; he chose to. We also must choose.

How God are you at turning aside to listen to God? How hard is it for God to get your attention?

1. Who am I? v.11 (I'm nobody. How am I supposed to do what you want me to?)
>God does not look for extraordinary people, just regular people willing to say yes to an extraordinary God.
>v.12 (God's response) "I will be with you"
->Hebrews 11 - common people with great faith
->2 Corinthians 12:9 "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness."

2. Who are you? v.13 (What about your character and intentions?
>v.14 "I am". I AM the God who cares about you.

3. What if they do not believe me or listen to me? 4:1
>God asks Moses to trust him; provides miraculous signs
->God asks us to give him whatever is in our hand (unhindered access to what we DO have).

4. I am slow of speech and tongue. v.10
>v.11 Who gave man his mouth?...Is it not I, the Lord?...I will help you.
->God doesn't call the qualified, he qualifies the called.
->God has made you perfect for what he wants you to do.

5. Please send someone else to do it. v.13
>God gives him his brother Aaron to help him.
->In community we help one another say yes to God.
->Who is your Aaron, helping you say yes to God? Who are you being an Aaron to?

What happened to the burning bush? Scripture doesn't say. Perhaps it's still burning, inviting us to turn aside and answer God's call.

The cross of Christ has made our insecurities irrelevant.

This was such a good message. We are all guilty of making excuses as to why we cannot do what God has asked us to do. It may be as simple as "It's too hard". I know I can be like Moses and just not want to (Please send someone else). But there's a reason God has asked ME to do this thing. There is something he wants to teach me or bless me with. I don't want to miss out on gaining intimacy with and knowledge of God. I need to stay connected so that I will have eyes to see and a heart willing to turn aside.

Is there anything in your life that you know God wants you to do but you keep making excuses? Perhaps you should ask God to answer your insecurities like he did Moses'. Of course, if you do this, you may feel really silly when you realize how small you've made God out to be. He can do ANYTHING with ANYONE!

Just Say Yes...Part 1

It's January and we have a new message series to help us start the year off right. I will try to be diligent in posting notes about each week. Enjoy!

Just Say Yes...When You Don't Understand

Genesis 12-22 (Abraham)

Pray this week: "Lord, help me to say 'yes' to you today."

Abraham's story tells us four things:

1. There's always a Promise
>God tells Abraham to leave everything he's known for an unspecified destination.
->People who say 'yes' to God hold things loosely (plans, possessions)
-->Is there anything you are holding on to that keeps you from fully responding to God?
>Abraham lived for another world.
>When God makes a promise, he ALWAYS delivers.
->It's one thing to believe IN God; it's another to BELIEVE God.
-->Doubt does not diminish one's faith.

2. There's always a Test (ch 22)

3. There's always a Choice
>Will you continue to trust God even when you don't understand?
->"Faith is trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse." Philip Yancey
>22:5 WE will worship and then WE will come back to you.
->Hebrews 11:19 - Abraham reasons that God could revive the dead (having never seen or heard an instance of God actually doing so!)

4. There's always a Provision
>"God is seldom early, but he's never late."
->Don't miss out on God's best/blessings for your life just because they aren't package din the way you want or expect.

I really enjoyed this message. It was good to be reminded that we have a God we can trust. This is a needed reminder because often we are asked to do things without knowing how it will all play out. God has a plan and we can trust him to come through and provide what is needed to accomplish his plan. Our job is to be willing to be part of God's plan.

Is there anything that I am holding on to that keeps me from being useful? I'm sure I am more concerned with "stuff" than I need to be. I definitely put a lot of hope/stock into spending a long part of my life with my husband. Not that God would ask me to let go of him, but he knows how much time we have together and it would be a big shock to suddenly be without him. I know it seems weird that I'm thinking about that, but I guess that's what happens when there's a new life on the horizon. I can't imagine having to raise a child on my own. I digress...I hope that I am not grasping onto things that aren't important at the detriment of being useful to God. I pray that if there is something, God would help me to see it and let go.

Reflect the Light

In December, our message series was "Light." I am just now getting around to December 20th's notes. I wasn't around for the 27th, but it seems like it might be good to listen to it to have all of the messages on here. So keep your eyes open for the fourth Light message. In the meantime, here are my notes from week three.

Philippians 2:5-7 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
>the Incarnation

Luke 2:6-7 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
>birth event
>Max Lucado quote about birth story

Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
>the application of the Incarnation
->Put Others First
*In our culture, we are taught to fight for our rights and look out for ourselves. If we are this way with our own family, how much more so with strangers/neighbors/etc?

Philippians 2:14-16 Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life—in order that I may boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor for nothing.
>Do EVERYTHING Without Complaining.
->We like to complain, to point out to God what we are lacking or what's not fair.
->Joseph didn't complain; Mary didn't complain; Jesus didn't complain

The light did not just come into the world, the message was handed off to us to reflect to the world.

Challenge: Instead of being drawn into the darkness, would you reflect God's light?
>Instead of fear and anxiety, will you choose peace? Instead of a critical spirit, compassion? Instead of impatience, kindness?

Philippians 2:10-11
that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

I really enjoyed Jeff talking about exchanging negative emotions for positive, life giving ones. I wasn't able to write fast enough to get all of them, but I know they're all on the podcast. It was a good reminder to hear that none of the members of the family were given the best circumstances - Joseph a pregnant fiance, Mary an unplanned child, Jesus life on earth as a human - but they accepted God's will for them and chose to trust him with the outcome. How are we to know whether our difficult circumstances might hold an unseen blessing? God is faithful and can be trusted.

Happy New Year!

Obviously I am way behind on posting. I can't believe it's been nearly a month since I was on here. I guess that's what happens around the holidays. I will do my best to catch up on past sermon messages soon. In the meantime, I'll do a little updating.

As you may know, I've been participating in a women's Bible study with two other ladies in the neighborhood. We have all really been enjoying the study. I am surprised by how much I do like it. I was a little wary before we started. We have three meetings left with this study and will have to decide if we want to start a new study. If we do, it would be a great opportunity to invite others to join the group. I would certainly share the group's existence with a few ladies I know in the neighborhood. We will see.

Our last meeting before Christmas, we talked about trying to find a way to serve our neighborhood. I suggested seeing if we could help a Welcoming Committee get started again. It appears that there used to be one but I haven't seen any glimpses of one in the three years I've been here. The other ladies thought that would be the best thing to look into right now as it is too cold to do any sort of clean up/yard work. I'm trying to get some information from the board and will hopefully have something to report to the ladies at our next meeting.

I was telling my husband about what we are thinking about doing. He reminded me that I have been working on a community newcomer book with my job at church that could be useful to those new to our neighborhood. I love how he thinks of these things! It's definitely a great idea and would save some leg work if we do get something started.

I'm actually excited about getting more involved with those around me and hope that everything works out. Even with a baby on the way, this project is something that wouldn't require too much work or time. I will try to remember to keep everyone updated on what happens.

Is there anything exciting for you as a new year gets into gear?