Saturday, November 19, 2016

Whatever

It's hard right now, isn't it?  The election didn't calm the storm; in fact, it seems like the waves are getting higher and visibility is diminishing even further.

At least that's what it seems like.

That cloudy glass is, well, cloudy.  We can't see clearly our hand in front of us so a lot of filtering and sifting and sorting out of truth from fiction or rumors has to be done.

It's not an easy task.  Some may say it is quite impossible.  The more informed I try to be, it seems the less truth there is out there and more opinion and heresy.

So I'm taking a pause from looking for truth in the stormy places for awhile and I'm spending my time following the advice of Paul, who lived through a tumultuous time, and I'm fixing my thoughts on what he suggests.


Whatever is true.....think about.

Whatever is noble....think about.

Whatever is right....think about.

Whatever is pure...think about.

Whatever is lovely....think about.

Whatever is admirable....think about.

Whatever is excellent...think about.

Whatever is praiseworthy...think about.


There are truths we can think about.  There are noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy things we can spend our time thinking about.  We don't have to look too far to find them.  If you are a student of the Bible, you can then follow his second instruction:

Practice.

Whatever I learned from Paul...practice.

Whatever I received or heard from Paul...practice.

If you know anything about Paul's story, any of his hardships, his testimony, his B.C. days, his A. C. days, you can practice how he handled adversity, untruths, difficulty in relationships, argumentative audiences, disgruntled friends and family.....

Practice what the Bible records him doing.

I think he spent a lot of time thinking.  Prison will give you that.  Time to think, time to write. Thinking about true things, noble things, right things, pure things, lovely things, admirable things, excellent things, praiseworthy things....

perhaps to keep him from not dwelling on

lies
undignified actions
wrongs
impurity
ugly
shameful
mediocre
disapproving

THINGS.




We can feed our souls one of two ways.

1.  With truth or
2.  With fear

When we feed our souls with truth by thinking on true and honorable and right and pure and lovely and admirable and excellent and praiseworthy things.....

we don't have time to think or mourn or lament or grieve the opposite.

Whatever is.......

True - aletha - unconcealed, what can't be hidden, undeniable reality when something is fully tested - it will ultimately be shown to be fact

honorable - semna - honorable, grave, serious, dignified

right - dikaios - correct, righteous, impartial, just in the eyes of God

pure - hagna - free from ceremonial defilement, holy, sacred, in a condition prepared for worship

lovely - prosphiles - pleasing, agreeable, acceptable, dearly prized, worth the effort to have

admirable - euphema - well reported of

excellence - arete - moral goodness, virtue, uprightness, perfection

praiseworthy - epainos - praise, commendation, approval, commendation that fits - is appropriate because it relates to God's will

Think on these things.

Whatever......

You have learned - manthano - to learn, come to realize

have received - paralambano - to receive from, take with me

have seen - horao - to see, perceive, attend to, experience, look upon, discern; to see with the mind, perceive with inward spiritual perception

these things we would do well to 

practice - prasso - to do, practice, a routine or habit

think on - logizomai - to reckon, to consider, take into account


We really only have two choices in our life.  To live in truth or to live in fear.  If we fear, we don't have the complete truth yet.


Whatever........


Peace,

Ronda

Philippians 4:8-9






Saturday, November 5, 2016

Down to the wire

I've prayed.  I've worried.  I've fretted.  I've feared.  I've prayed.  I've let go.  I've worried.  I've fretted.  I've feared.  I've prayed.  I've let go.

Repeatedly, the last several months.

It hasn't changed a darn thing.  Well, the praying has, but nothing else has really made things better, except the fact that I realize I'm in good company with the rest of the worriers, fritters and fearfuls.

We all have our beliefs and our sureness down pat.  There's not much that could really change any of our minds, no matter which side we've landed on right now.

I've seen the repeated memes comparing the two candidates.  I've read the reasons why one's sins are worse or not as bad as the other's sins.  Ad nauseum.

Those thoughts haven't changed my thoughts.  I doubt anyone's have been changed.

Setting aside the criteria of character for one running for President of the United States, what else matters in this election?  That question has been answered by a host of experts too.  Supreme Court appointments, health care, defense, national security, blah....blah....blah.

What else matters?

If we Followers of Jesus really want to walk our talk and talk our walk, what matters is how God views each of the candidates.

He said something awhile back, something about not looking at the outward appearance of things, but instead he looked at the heart.

We can't look inside the heart, we can see the actions but even then we only see snippets of the actions they want us to see.  Whether in a good light or a bad light, nothing is as it appears on TV or in a meme or anywhere else.

Only God knows the full story.  Only God knows the circumstances.  Only God knows the heart's motive.

But.......(you knew that was coming),

We still have two flawed people, vulnerable and exposed to the world.

Both of them look like all of us.  Whether in small ways or larger ways, all of us can relate and are guilty of at least one of the sins these two people have listed next to their names on a 24 hour news cycle.

When I think of them in this light, my heart hurts for them.

I wonder if they know and believe that Jesus still loves them.

I wonder if they know and believe that Jesus died to free them from the sin that we so mercilessly point out to them.

I wonder if they hate the reminders continually being brought up again and again and again.

I wonder if they want to scream at all of us, "Leave me alone, this is between my God and me!"

I wonder if they struggle with the voices (not just ours, but the hidden voices) that taunt them and say "Look at what you've done!  How could you?  You're not that bad.  It could be worse.  You only did what you had to."

Maybe I'm the only one who has to wrangle those kinds of thoughts.

I wonder if they are tired and weary and heavy laden.

I wonder if they wish they could push the restart button of their lives and do things differently.

I wonder if they do, what would they do differently.

We're stuck with flawed human beings, no matter which one we get, each of them is greatly flawed and both are a great reflection of the people they will be leading.

If God's grace isn't for them, it isn't for us either.

That's a hard pill to swallow.

Ugh.

No matter who wins, the call of the Followers of Jesus is clear.  Prayer for our President is needed like never before.  We want to be free from the sins that bind us so must I want them to be free of the sins that bind them, no matter who is President.

Our job is clear, come November 9th.

It won't be a time of lamenting and stewing, but a new time of ceaseless praying, if not for them, us.

I want the best for my country and my children and grandchildren.

It looks like God is in the business of using very flawed people to remind me how flawed I am without the grace and love of Jesus Christ.  I pray that whoever wins, comes to know and live out that truth too.


Peace,

Ronda


Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Look out Home Depot!

A long time ago a German monk took it upon himself to denounce the shenanigans of the Catholic church.  In his time the church was corrupt (gasp!) and those who held the power were found to be untrustworthy with the offering basket (gasp!).

So this monk found the courage to face the truth and as such, face the enemies of the truth.

And.....

Voila', we have the Bible written in many languages, read by believers all over the world.  All because one person used the tool he had, the only tool necessary, truth, to seek true justice.

We've been digging like that German monk ever since.

Many like to let others dig and receive the benefit of the diggers' labor, not having the opportunity or the compulsion to dig themselves.

Until.....

They do.

Until they come face to face with something that their old tools don't help or fix the situation they are in.

Maybe it's a wayward child, or infidelity, or any number of sufferings that face the human race.

They dig in their ratty old tool belt and come up with only a screw driver or a hammer, when they need a tape measure and a level and wrench and a drill and a saw.  The screw driver and the hammer used to be enough but it isn't anymore, and the suffering they are suffering doesn't get fixed or removed by those two small tools.

We are at a time in history where our tool belts need to be restocked.  We don't have the right tools for the job.

Yeah, we can borrow our neighbors tools, but pretty soon, he'll be knocking on our doors asking for his tool back because he needs to use it for his project or crisis.

You  need to buy your own set of tools.

You need to get a new tool belt, one that is sturdy and can carry many tools.  Maybe one of the cool ones now with wheels and a handle to pull it from site to site.

If you're dealing with the same problems in the same way and getting the same results - frustration, disgust, anger, defeat - it may be time to up your game and get more tools.

The good news is you won't have to run up a bill at Home Depot or Lowe's to get a good supply.

The tools you need are free.

Those foundational tools will still be necessary, but to really make your project shine, you need some more help.  Some better tools.

Only you know what you need.

Do you need courage?  Strength?  Passion?  Purpose?

What is your need?  What isn't working?

Do you need joy again?  Hope?  Mercy?

Then get them!  Now!  You know where to look for them.  You know the aisle they're in.  Don't ask someone to show you, go look yourself.  Take a stroll around the hardware store, you may find tools you didn't think you needed but boy, they sure could come in handy.

Don't wait for someone to drive you to the store to shop.  Don't wait for someone to show you how to find what you need.  This is something only you can do.  You and

Jesus.

He'll give you the new tools that you need.  They've been there all along, bright and shiny on a shelf.  You only need to reach up and take it.

Go shopping!  I give you permission to run up your credit card bill and have a blast!  Get what you need and then some.  Fill your cart, rip open the packaging and start using it, whether you know exactly what it's for or not, start playing with the tools and build your life.

The good life.  The life we live in between.  The only life you get on earth.

What are you waiting for?

A sale?


Peace,

Ronda

Matthew 13:52


No Vexations Allowed

If the last year and a half has shown us anything, it has shown us how worried the citizens of the United States are.

The statements of one political party set their opponents on edge and vice versa.  Just reading through the comments on any political post and you can see the distress that is going on in the hearts of Americans.

We are all so afraid.  So worried.  So scared.  So horrified.  So offended.  So repulsed.  So, well, you get the idea.

There's a lot of worry going around - believer and unbeliever, Democrat and Republican, male and female, sinner and saint.

We're all a little STRESSED out at the moment, wouldn't you agree?

But what we're experiencing right now really isn't anything new, because in the words of King Solomon, "There's nothing new under the sun."

As much as this culture right now is fretting, the saints in heaven are probably saying to each other, "Been there, done that," about us down here in the present battle.  We're not special nor is our time period any more special then the ones before us whether 100 years ago, 1000 years ago or 5000 years ago.  In all the history of the world, there really is nothing new under the sun.

The behavior and inclinations of men and women have not changed since the first couple hid from their Creator.

The only thing that is significantly different is that we, inhabitants of the year of our Lord, 2016, have a few more history books to look back on to see that there truly is nothing new under the sun.

Politics have been corrupted for centuries.  Males have objectified women.  Women have sought to be as powerful as men.

But for those of us watching, even though our minds tell us there is nothing new under the sun, we still battle with our own fears and anxieties of what will happen on November 9th.  What does our future hold if those who predict catastrophe if the opponent wins really does happen?

What can we do to get through?

Hide?  Ignore?  Run to Canada?

I think the answer is quite simple and doesn't involve packing.

Banish anxiety from your heart.

To banish something in the Hebrew light means to turn off (literally or figuratively), to turn aside, remove, stop, take away.

Anxiety is something we all suffer, some more than others, some chronic, some on an acute basis.  Probably a lot of us have an acute case of anxiety now, but those who have chronic anxiety can feel your pain.

Anxiety is another word for vexation - the state of being worried or annoyed; something that worries or annoys you.

Basically it means that you are being harassed or irritated.

It's not easy to stop vexing things from overcoming our minds let alone our hearts, but it is exactly what Solomon advised in his ancient writing called Ecclesiastes.  He advised to banish Ka'as - our sorrow, vexations, anger, provocation, wrath and grief - from our hearts.

Peter said to cast all our anxiety on Him because He cares for us.

To throw all our worries and cares and concerns and anxiety on Him.

No matter what November 9th looks like, the cause for anxiety, worry and concern will still be there.

So what are you going to do about your own supply?

Are you going to coddle it and comfort it and please it and carry it with you as you go about your life that will be the same routine on November 9th as it was on November 8th?  Will it help you or anyone else to keep doing the same thing again and again, hoping for a different outcome?

Believers, brothers and sisters, who will you be on November 9th?

If you're overwhelmed by worries, anxieties and concerns now, what will you do to change that for the future?  Your baggage is not mandatory for the future.  In fact, it's totally unnecessary to carry baggage that someone has already took from your hands and nailed it on a cross.

We have the invitation to throw all our worries - our questions, our shock, our judgments, our fears, our concerns, our vexations - throw them all on the Lord Jesus Christ because

He CARES for us.

Banish these from your heart and throw them on Jesus.

When they come around, you lock the door, put the CLOSED sign on the window, and tell those anxieties where they can go.

It's in your hands.

If you like carrying the burdens around and you find comfort in that, well .....  carry on.

(But aren't you tired of lugging around those heavy bags?)

Jesus doesn't want you to carry garbage you were never supposed to carry.

It's time for us to look like we trust Him.  Really trust Him.

If we don't fake it till we make it, then what hope is there for people who don't know where they can really put their fears?

It starts with the Family of God.  It's time to walk the talk.

Today.  Not November 9th or January 20th or any other future date.

Today is the day.

Little faith, little God.  Big faith, big God.

If you're carrying around your anxiety, worry and concern unnecessarily, you are going to have a hard time seeing a Big God do Big Things.

It's time, friend.

Banish anxiety from your heart.  Put up the no trespassing sign, stand watch, and arrest anything that tries to make its way back into your faith filled heart.

You were never meant to know evil.  Pretend you don't

                                     and just cast all your


                                                       vexations


                                                                        on Him.

As many times as it takes - cast it all on him.  When they come back as quickly as you've banished them, show them the door.  They'll give up eventually.  Fight for your heart!  Fight for your peace of mind.  You were never meant to know fear.  Practice living with childlike faith.  If you practice it will get easier because practice makes perfect!




Peace,

Ronda

Ecclesiastes 11:10
1 Peter 5:7
Genesis 2:17




Sunday, October 30, 2016

What do you have to lose?

When one seeks to know the heart of the heavenly Father, laying aside what one thought they knew for the adventure of seeking what He wants you to know about him, interesting things begin to happen.  Things you couldn't prepare for or imagine.

When one boldly gives God a timeline and says, "Ok, show me you, and show me you NOW, I'll give you a year," He has a funny way of drawing you in and showing you in a year's time you have only begun to scratch the surface of all he wants to show you about him.

And by then, it's too late, you're in....like Flynn.

All of a sudden seeking God's heart, if you're not careful, becomes a subtle addiction. A good addiction, but still an addiction.

A craving starts and when you want to walk away because He's grabbing your heart and pulling you away from the safe and comfort of your oh so blah and comfortable and boring comfort zone, you get pulled back in because your comfort zone isn't so cozy.  In fact, it's rather prickly.

You try to sit in your old comfortable chair and recline in your old comfortable ways telling yourself that you can go back to the way you were BEFORE you started seeking to know him, but in the end, the footrest of your recliner snaps down with a jolt because you have to know more.  You have to understand him better, because he has brought up so many more questions that you didn't know you even had when He was in a box and you were safe in your comfort zone.

Words now jump off the pages of stories you thought you knew because you'd heard them over and over and over and over again when the church calendar told you you should hear them, but this time there is something different about them.  Something is.........new.  And relevant.  And, dare I say, exciting.

Your heart is unsettled because the familiar way is dry and tasteless and without spice, lacking dimension or relevance to selfish and self centered and self absorbed you and me.

But when you take the courageous leap to discover the heart of the Father, not just the words that tell of his heart, but His actual abiding in your heart, and you listen and you turn your ear to a voice that  once was muffled by the comforts of your recliner and now is clear and loud by the wind breaking open the prison doors of your mind, you begin to crave the whispers and long for the gentle echoes of his wooing gentle voice.

As the treasure hunt for seeking the heart of the Creator of the world and the Savior of all men begins to unfold, taking you in directions you would have never dreamed you would go, to areas you had firmly said, "Never" in the comfortable days, you see the light for your path taking you in the place of greater joy and peace than you had ever experienced in your comfortable yesterday.

It's not without pain, this seeking the heart of the King of Kings, and it is not for the faint of heart either.

As you begin to see the world through the eyes of the Heart who gave up his comfort zone to walk among our world, the paths of suffering start to appear but the addiction of knowing and having to know what the Master would do or say or how he would endure takes your eyes off the suffering that lies ahead and to the side and taking up the tail wind.

You just want to know Him.

You want to know what He means when he says that he delights in showing mercy and kindness and justice and righteousness.

You want to know what it looks like and feels like to see the sin and yet still have great and abiding love for the sinner, especially when the sinner is you.

You want to know how he continues to not turn his eyes from the evil his creation does, when all we who are in comfort want to do is turn away, turn off, unfriend, and unfollow.

Then you will have that moment when you know that out of all the people in the world He is the one who gets you.  He is the one who understands you completely.  He and he alone sees the whole picture, the hidden as well as what's out there strictly for show.

He knows the real you.

And you're not afraid anymore to realize that he does.  (Actually, you are relieved to know that he knows the real you and can't believe he still wants to be with you).  You don't scare him away and that's what you don't know until you start seeking his heart.

Religion and rules will always entice you to believe that if the you stray from their paths you will lose His favor.  They gang up on your mind telling it you know his love and grace is unending, and bully your heart that has never been convinced.  You know with your mind.... but your heart doesn't believe that you know that you know what you know.

So you give up and give in and put up and forget.

But God doesn't.

Mercy, God's heart size mercy, doesn't give up or leave you.  His heart is the treasure.  His heart is the goal.

You will no longer be comfortable when you start the journey to know the heart of the Father.  Not just memorize some verses, but seek to know his heart.

You'll have moments of great joy and celebration and other days and weeks and months, and yes, even years, of great pain and suffering and wondering where he is.

You'll never be the same.

You won't be able to go back to your old ways, but it won't be because you can't go back it will be because you'll no longer want to go back because the new you doesn't quite fit in the the old wineskins.   He'll grab and hold your heart so tight that to go back and give up what you learned along the way will be too big a price to pay to be who you were before you sought out his heart.

When you taste and see that the LORD is Good, your addiction for knowing his heart as one that will never leave you will not require you to sit in a recovery circle of anonymous faces, hearts fearful and ashamed.  This addiction is allowed and encouraged.

You just have to start.  One verse.  One prayer.  One plea.

Father, help me to know who you are and who I am and who I am not because of who you are.

Really, what do you have to lose?



Peace,

Ronda

Isaiah 30:18-22
Isaiah 41:10
Isaiah 41:13
Isaiah 42:3
Isaiah 42:16
Isaiah 43:1-2
Isaiah 45:2-3
Isaiah 46:4
Isaiah 48:6
Isaiah 48:17
Isaiah 50:10
Isaiah 54:4-8
Jeremiah 6:16
Jeremiah 17:7-8





Thursday, October 27, 2016

Stand up or shrink back?

I just saw another story about another well known Christian putting their two cents worth into the public discourse of......well, it doesn't matter what was said, who said it or why they felt they needed to say what they said.  It's their conscience.  It's their life.

As I've come to learn, most assuredly this election season, is that most everything is taken out of context, most everything is twisted to say what wasn't said, or what someone wished was said, or what wasn't said but reported as said because someone said it was true and you know someone never lies why would they lie or why would someone believe what someone who lies said is true when you know someone lies.

How's that for a run on?  Hmmmmmm?

The more I know, the less I know.  The more I understand the more I realize there is more to understand than I will never be able to understand in my lifetime.  Probably three or four lifetimes wouldn't even get me to where full understanding waits.

I could pick out a bunch of Bible passages and if you're not real knowledgeable, you may quickly agree that because this blog posted this passage stating a certain truth is backed up by a certain passage than it must be true.

But then along comes someone who is smarter than me or more knowledgeable or has more wisdom or has a degree that says they have the authority to understand it more clearly than either myself or my friend in the above paragraph.....

And that person would then point out why the first passage is not correct and why because that passage does not confirm an imagined and/or hoped for truth

...and then both me and my friend are left wiping egg off our faces.

So what is one to do?  Who is the authority on where these cut and paste pieces of an ancient text can be glued into our fragmented and disjointed and disagreeable 21st century?

Jesus.

He's the one with the authority.

And He drives me crazy because He's all about saving people and loving people and freeing people and he puts up with a lot of misconceptions and lies and half truths about who he is and what he wants and what he expects and he lets us all just duke it out until we're SCREAMING AT EACH OTHER IN CAPITAL LETTERS or unfriending or unfollowing our own brothers and sisters in Christ or otherwise!

I mean really, Jesus, could we please just get some clarity?  Please?  The authoritative clarity only you seem to have.

Ugh.

So I like to find a word, any word, and see and read all the places it's used in the ancient text - or what we like to call, The BIBLE.  I like to look up the original languages, see it used every place it's used in the Bible, and even read it in a several different translations so I know I am fairly clear on its meaning.

So the other day I was soaking in Revelation 21.  (Kinda under the bleh feeling of, Lord give me some hope it's going to be better SOOOOONNNN!)  If I had a super power my super power would be that I could read the WHOLE Bible in one sitting every time I sat down to read it.  It would make it so much easier if I could read and know and understand the full context of a verse or a chapter or a book in relation to the whole book.

But.....alas, I am a mere aging woman, graying, shrinking, and widening, and no such super powers to boast.

So back to Revelation 21.

God has such a way with causing a word to jump off the page with me.

And if you've read Revelation 21 I'm sure you are trying to guess which word was the one that got my attention.

No, it wasn't the one on mourning,

or the seven angels,

or the light

 or the lamp.

Nope, none of those.

It was one in this passage:

"But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars - their place will be in the fiery lake of burning sulfur."

I'm guessing you think it might be.......LIARS?

Nope.

I won't hold you in suspense, I know you have things to do.









But the 
COWARDLY
the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars.....

Cowardly - afraid in a way that makes you unable to do what is right or expected; lacking courage

Cowardly is not last on the list nor is it in the middle.  For some reason, John was led by the Spirit to put Cowardly front and top of the verse.

Now, I have to confess something.  If I have a list, whether it is a grocery list, a list of tasks to complete, or any other list, whether I am making it or memorizing it, I usually ALWAYS remember the very first thing on the list (if I forget the paper my list is written on).  It's usually because the first thing on a list is the most important thing on the list I need to buy, do or remember to buy or do and thinking of the most important thing to write down started an avalanche of other things to write down, but the most important thing stays at the top.

So I went ahead and looked for some other lists in the New Testament and I found a few more.

You can look them up if you would like:  1 Corinthians 5:9-12 and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Ephesians 4:29-5:7.

Now, I stayed in the New Testament because we are living in the New Testament, not the Old.  And I know how some God mockers hate when the Old Testament is used as a basis for morality so I found it interesting that the New Testament held quite a list of "deal breakers" (if the words of Paul and John are considered a valid part of the truth package).

Did you find it interesting that Paul stated that these were all about people INSIDE the church, not outside?  It wasn't about "sinners" and their end game, but it was a plea to the "saints" and their end game.

They are strong words, and it's a tough list so you may want to soak in them for a little bit before you come back to this post.



If you come back.



But when, and if  you do, let me point out something:

Cowardly makes no other list but the list in Revelation.

The Greek word for it, deilos means to be cowardly, fearful, timid.  It's used for the English words, cowardly and afraid.

It is an adjective that describes a person who loses their "moral gumption" that is needed to follow the Lord, because of an excess fear (dread) of losing, causing someone to be fainthearted (cowardly) hence, to fall short in following Christ the Lord.

Second on that Revelation list, is the word unbelieving (apistos) which means to be not faithful because he or she is unpersuaded, not convinced, or they are someone who rejects or refuses God's inbirthings of faith.

So, my lists usually have the most important things to buy or do at the top.

I wonder if that was what John intended.  He got a great vision and as he tried to record it, I wonder, did the word cowardly and unbelieving jump off the corner of the vision and onto papyrus first because it was the most telling trait he saw?

I'll ask him when I meet him.

But for now, I'll ask you.....

Are you a coward?  Are you unbelieving of what God can do?  Has done?  Could help you overcome?

If you follow the rest of the list you will see a lot of things that in other places of the Bible you may believe grace covers.  Those sins that so many of us have laid aside because we trust and believe that grace, God's undeserved favor, has freed us from the guilt of them.

Or have we?

Do we listen to the liars who say we were made that way or that we are just doing what society or our culture accepts or has rejected as old fashioned?  Do we throw our hands up in the air and say to the Potter, "You made me this way.  You know I'm a 'sinner', what do you expect from me?  Perfection?"

What say you, Jesus?   Does grace cover this or not?

The best answer I think He gives is that it depends on the heart's motive.

If you and I cowardly believe God has no power over our sin and so we just continue living it, practicing it, running towards it, accepting it, believing we have been sentenced to a sinners' life....then we might  be a little nervous at this point of this post.

But if we struggle with any of these and are continually asking God to help us overcome and conquer the struggles, going two steps forward and three steps back sometimes but always aiming for a forward path to victory, then these passages need not frighten us of death, just to confession and repentance.

It all depends on our hearts.

We either trust God to help us overcome or we don't.

We either submit ourselves to his escape plan from temptation or we cowardly give in to temptation.

Peter was afraid, but he wasn't cowardly.  When Jesus told him to walk to him on the water, he was afraid.  But Jesus didn't accuse him of being a coward.

Which are you?

Fearful or cowardly?  The fight or flight is a natural physiological response.  Cowardice takes thought.  And mulling over.  And considering of the cost.

Does your faith just need some exercising to be less fearful or is your fear of what you'll lose if you step out in faith driving you to shrink back and cower?

What is God calling you to be bold for?  What is God compelling you to stand firm on?

It's ok to be afraid, but clearly, John thought it important enough to place it number one on his list...

what he saw did not give the ok to be a coward.

I think there is a call going out around the world for courageous believers to stand up, not shrink back.  What that looks like for you may not look the same for me.  But, if you're about standing up for an ancient text describing an everlasting Lover of men's and women's and children's souls, then now may be the day you walk into light and out of the darkness of your own fears.

The cowards are on the same list as the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, the magicians, the idolators and the liars.

Our fear and shrinking back doesn't look so innocent on that list, does it?

Paul told believers not to associate with a brother, (a believer) who is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolator or a slanderer, a drunkard, or a swindler.

Why?  Why Paul, why do we want to stay from those who claim to love Jesus but refuse to trust Jesus with conquering the sins that have entrapped them?

Why do you think Paul told us that?  And, even more difficult to think, what does that look like?

I think we'll see a great divide if and when that day ever comes, where the cowards are set apart from the fearfully courageous.

Which side will you be on?

Do you trust him or don't you?  Being willing to be made willing to trust him is more powerful then one who shrinks back and is afraid to be made willing.



Ugh.  I hate when these kind of words rattle around in my brain.




Peace,

Ronda




Matthew 14:30
Hebrews 10:39
Titus 2:11-15
1 Corinthians 7:23

Deilos
Matthew 8:26 (afraid); Mark 4:40 (afraid);  Revelation 21:8 (cowardly)

Apistos (unbelieving)
Matthew 17:17; Mark 9:19; Luke 9:41; 12:46; John 20:27; Acts 26:8 (incredible); 1 Corinthians 6:6; 7:12, 13,14,15; 10:27; 14:22,23,24; 2 Corinthians 4:4; 6:14,15; 1 Timothy 5:8, Titus 1:15; Revelation 21:8


Cowardly synonyms:
chicken; chickenhearted, checken-livered, craven, dastardly, gutless, lily-livered, milk-livered, poltroon, pusillanimous, recreant, spineless, unheroic, yellow

Cowardly antonyms:
brave, courageous, daring, dauntless, doughty, fearless, gallant, greathearted, gutsy, hardy, heroic, intrepid, lionhearted, stalwart, stout, stouthearted, valiant, valorous


It is for freedom that Christ has set you free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be  burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

United we stand, divided we fall

What does Jesus think about division?  Does he like it?  Does he condone it?  Does he embrace it?

Well, it depends on who you ask.

If you ask a theologian he or she may say something different than someone who is new to the Bible. If you ask a pew warmer he or she may say something different than someone who refuses to have anything to do with religion.

What do you think Jesus thinks about division?

We only have the Bible to find out.  We can't speak to things he may have thought or said that weren't recorded or we didn't hear because we weren't there when he walked the earth.  It would be interesting to speak to him "off the record."  To read those things John talked about, the things that  "Jesus did many other things as well.  If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."

We only get to know what we only get to know.  The mystery of many things remains a mystery.

But there is one thing Jesus said about division that I hate to read.  I hate it and it goes against my need for him to be nice and sweet and unifying and kind and understanding and willing to look the other way and just love me where I'm at.

"Do you think I came to bring peace on earth?  No, I tell you, but division.  From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three.  They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law."

Ugh.

Jesus, this is not how a good sweet God should try to build his people up.  Isn't there a seminar where we can learn how to get along, where we can learn to listen to each other and communicate with each other in a way that brings mutual understanding and edification?

Surely, you didn't mean what you said?



Could he be the one behind all the division we see right now?

If so, why?  What purpose could there be to division?  Is there a purpose?  What could he be trying to work out the only way it can be brought out but through division?

I used to hate the thought of division.  I couldn't understand how God's people could ever be divided. I thought that if there were enough prayer, enough seminar attendance, enough turning the other cheek, then surely it would be ok.  There would be unity among the brethren.

I liked to believe in fairy tales on earth.

And I said to Jesus, many times,  "What about what Paul said about division?  Hmmmmmm?"

"The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!"  And the hand cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!"  On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor.  And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment.  But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other.  If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."

And there's Jesus' answer to my argumentatively based question.

He brings division so that the Body can be united.  He brings division, he divides out the parts that are unpresentable, less honorable, dispensable....those parts that are keeping the body from having equal concern for each member of the body.

He brings division to cleanse, to bring honor and modesty to those parts that lack them.

He brings division so that when one part suffers, every part suffers.

Division shows us where the suffering parts are.

There's a lot of suffering parts right now in America, least of which is in the visible church housing the invisible members of the body of Christ.  Some of them may be marching about certain lives mattering.  Some of them may be refusing to see the truth about their candidate.  Some of them may be so sick and tired of everything they have just given up and refuse to engage in anything.  Many of them sit in church buildings, Sunday after Sunday, week after week, never knowing what God is after in the division they are sure is right.

The division is palpable.  The division on the news is a perfect reflection of the division of Christ's body.  We are divided Americans because the visible American church is a divided body.

We have settled for the first statement by Jesus, "I have come to not bring peace but division" and said, "Well, that's what Jesus promised there's no getting around it," yet have failed to take to heart what the Apostle Paul was led by the Holy Spirit to say just a few decades after Jesus' left the earth.

So which is it Lord?  Which will keep us in your good graces?  Which shows our true devotion to you?  What you said, or what you said through Paul?

We're waiting for an answer, Lord.  Can't you see the world is on fire now?  Don't you see the news?  Don't you follow Facebook?  Don't you read the comments?  Don't you see what is going on out there?

"But God has combined the members of the body and has given greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other." 

Ugh.  What is that supposed to mean?  I need clear answers, Lord.

What will it matter who is elected if the Body of Christ continues to be divided by its own stubbornness, fears, or personal sense of justice?

Jesus said something else about equal concern for our neighbor.  You know the quote, it gets blasted at his followers from the bystanders who mock believers.  "Love your neighbor as yourself."

It's a good quote.  But it's funny how that quote gets used and the one just before it gets ignored.  Maybe if the one before it didn't get ignored, maybe the division that Jesus said he brought would do its work a little faster so that we could all get down to the callings we've been given.

Have you heard this one?  Have you quoted this one when you quote the Love thy neighbor one?

"The most important one," answered Jesus, "is this:  'Hear O Israel, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'  The second one is this:  'Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandments greater than these."

If we're working on the first of the greater commands we probably won't have much time for marching or commenting or pouting.

I'm terrible at following my own advice.  Even worse at practicing what I preach.  I like to use that division quote of Jesus to justify some of my own not so pretty behaviors.  Almost like I can say, "See I shouldn't worry so much about making peace with those I don't get along with, because, look, look right here in Luke's gospel Jesus said it was going to be like this."

It's nice to have that as the ace in my pocket to pull out when I don't want to love my neighbor as myself.  When I don't want to give equal concern for the suffering parts of the body because I'm afraid I will give the wrong idea of supporting a brother or sister who is suffering in sin because I'm afraid it will look like I am condoning that "sin" whatever it may be - whether it is vulgarity or false teaching or alcoholism or gossiping or overeating.

Jesus said there will be division in our own family, but he didn't let us know why until decades after his death.  Those early first century Christians had to wait to know why they were being hated by their own families and tossed to lions.  Most probably never knew.  But they do now.  And so do we.

So that equal concern for the Body will be attained.

It doesn't look pretty.  If anything, Jesus was giving us and the early church a heads up on that very fact.

Division isn't pretty.  But it's going to happen.

Division is never pretty when there is no purpose to it.  When it is just division because pride or stubbornness or fear doesn't want to do what it takes to put the effort in to loving my neighbor as myself, let alone working on the loving God with everything part.

But division with purpose is beautiful.  It has an attainable goal.  Division with purpose is so that there is growth.  If a seed never died and its pollen carried in the wind, there would never be new flowers.

Division with Jesus' purpose in mind is beautiful.

When there is no division in the Body its parts will have equal concern for the other.  When one part suffers, all will feel the pain of the one suffering, not just those on this side of the theological aisle.  When one part rejoices, all will rejoice. Not just those who have the most "likes" or "followers."

When division is embraced the way Jesus intends division to be used, God is glorified.

If nothing else during this time of great division, let us ask God these things:

What are the indispensable parts of the your Body?  The honorable parts?  The modest parts?  Where are the parts that lack honor?  What can we do to show equal concern for your body?  Not just the parts of the body that we like or agree with or find more important?

There will be division.  But division does have a role.

Where do you fit in division's purpose?


Peace,

Ronda

Luke 12:51
1 Corinthians 1:10
1 Corinthians 11:18
Romans 16:17
John 21:25
Psalm 133:1
John 17:23
Romans 15:5
Ephesians 4:3
Colossians 3:14


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Just enough light for the next step

My husband and I rode four wheelers recently.  It was a beautiful fall weekend in Northern Wisconsin.  The colors were brilliant as we zipped up and down trails, taking quick turns, with even quicker glimpses of beautiful lakes and ponds reflecting the white birch bark, the yellows and oranges and reds of the trees getting ready for their winter sleep.

With the sun not so high in the sky this time of year, and shining so brightly against a clear blue sky, the shadows it made with the leaves played tricks on my eyes.  There would be splashes of light in a polka dot pattern of shadow, sometimes dangerously placed on a hairpin turn or on a rock that was camouflaged in nature's disguise.

When we rode into an open clearing and the visibility was unfettered, the sun brought sparkles of diamonds on the pond waters, and made every color even more brilliant with the amber filter of my goggles.

But when the light was unpredictable, when it only shined itself in splotches of the forest trails, that is when the path seemed almost dangerous.

As the already low sun began to set, and the dust stirred up by the dry conditions, visibility was further impeded; where light was shining it was clouded by the dust left behind the rider ahead of me.  The light never stopped being light, but the dust came in and clouded what was already being camouflaged by the shadows from the trees hanging above the trails.

I knew God was trying to tell me something about this, because all day I kept grumbling about the light and the dust and the mixture of both with shadows.  The light was there trying to warn me of rocks and dips and puddles, but I was frustrated often because the shadows and dust seemed to be working so hard to block the light from shining on a clear path.

Sorta like what's going on right now in America.  It seems nearly every hour, more and more darkness is being exposed as more and more light is being shed on the corruption of our government and elected officials.  We see the light and what it is exposing, but the shadows and dust of those ahead of us is hindering a clear unobstructed view.

We see the light, but the shadows overpower it.  The darkness covers it, just when it seems a clearing is coming into view.

One more email released, one more video exposed, one more recording blasted over the internet.....

The Light is there.  The Light hasn't gotten darker just because the shadows have covered it.  The Light will never lose its power, no matter how much darkness tries to hide, the Light is still shining.  The clearing is just around the corner.  We'll be riding into that open field with the twinkling water reflecting the beauty of the forest around it soon.  Maybe it's just around the next hairpin turn, maybe we still have miles and miles to go.

Nevertheless, when we get there, the reflection is perfect.  The winds are calm, not a ripple is seen sans the rise of a fish searching for its afternoon snack.

Soon the Light will push away the darkness, as the last leaf falls before the winter nap is taken.

The Light will burst forth and there will be nothing to stop it.  No dust, no shadow, no forest canopy will be able to hinder the path we must take.

The rough ground will become level, the rugged places a plain and the glory of the Lord will be revealed and all mankind together will see it.


Peace

Ronda

Isaiah 40

Saturday, October 8, 2016

SMH

They must be shaking their heads.  The Holy of Holy and all who are with them.  They must be shaking their heads at us here in America.

That's what I'm doing.  Shaking my head, yelling at the TV, yelling at Facebook, yelling at family and friends who don't think the way I do on screen.  Why don't "they" see what "they" are doing?  Why can't "they" see that "we" are right and "they" are wrong?

Surely, the Holy of Holies is looking at us and shaking his head and doing the same?

Oh wait, the Holy One is not like us.  He lived like us, He walked like us, He felt like us, He experienced like us.....but .......

He's not us.

His vision is broader and wider and higher and deeper and longer than ours will ever be.

He sees the beginning the middle and the end.  We have only glimpses of the same.

But still, we hope, at least I do, that I'm right and "they" are wrong, because I'm a child of the Holy One even though "they" say they are also children of the Holy One.

Ugh.

Double, triple, quadruple ugh.

These things I know in my head are true, yet my heart gets distracted and forgets daily, ok, every time I'm on Facebook or watch the "news."

1.  God is still in control.

2.  God is not surprised by anything that is going on in America right now.

3.  God's grace is still for EVERYONE, no matter what he said, or she did or he will do or she might do.  God's grace is still for EVERYONE.

It's so easy to forget that one.  As much as I want to point fingers and yell through cyberspace, I have to yell louder for GRACE to pour over us, to spill out of us, to cover us, to cleanse us.

God is not surprised.

God's grace is still active and available for all who call on His name.

It's so hard to walk that talk though, during this time, is it not?  Maybe it's just me having a hard time walking the talk I believe.

It's all so...so...so  murky.  I love my country.  But I love God more.  I love justice, but I'm pretty fond of His grace too.  I love those who agree with me, but I want to love those who don't just as much or more.  I love the freedoms I've known as an American citizen my whole life, but I love the freedom I have in Christ more.

He's in control.

He's not surprised by anything that is going on in America or anywhere else right now.

His grace is still for EVERYONE.

I'm working on that one the most.  It's hard, but I am working on it.  We're all just a breath away from being trapped in our fears and guilt and shame...again.  No matter how free Christ has made us, the battle for our minds and words and behaviors is still going on.  Strongly.

None of us have anything to boast about.  Our only boast is this:


Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength, or the rich man boast of his riches, but let him who boasts boast about this:  that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight, declares the LORD.

That's my new prayer for all of us, for "them", "we", "him", "her"......us.  That we understand and know the Lord who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth.

I want to delight him, don't you?



Peace,

Ronda

Thursday, September 1, 2016

When the doves were saved by the Lamb

I wonder about the doves.

When the curtain tore in two, were the doves released at the same time?  Did their cages simultaneously bust open and those waiting a certain death as a sacrifice for the poor soul's sin...did they hesitate?  Did the doves hesitate, did some stay behind?  Were there any who felt the ground shake and their cage burst open and just saw the opportunity and fled?  Did they leave behind their hole, carved in the stone, the place they had lived waiting for their fate?

I wonder about the lambs and rams and the goats, all of them tagged to be the offered as an offering at the temple.  Did they know they were free?  Did they know their purpose on earth was no longer to be an offering, layed out on an altar to be sacrificed for a soul's misdeed?

I wonder about the priests.  When the temple curtain tore in two and the ground shook and the holy ones, long dead, rose from the dead and walked among the city, did they lay down their turbans and the ephod with the precious stones and the robes with the beautiful colors?

When the temple curtain was torn in two, the frayed edges swinging and trying to meet in the middle, did anyone try and sew it back together?

What about the bronze laver and the lamp stand and the ark?

How long did it take for the sacrifices to stop?

As those who believed hid and waited for whatever was going to happen next to happen, did they feel the burden already lifting of what it meant for them that the Lamb had made the final sacrifice?  What were those first days and weeks like when the believers tried to put together the pieces of the words they had heard Jesus say?

When they walked by the market where the doves were sold, the cages empty, the proprietor reading a scroll as his customers walked by, did they chuckle to themselves as the reality started to pour into their religious soaked mind:

I don't have to do this anymore.

I don't have to do this anymore.

I don't have to do this anymore.

What did you think when your prison door opened?  When you got "it?"  When you understood what the death of the Lamb really meant for you?  Did you look for the rules to follow, to still feel a sense of order and structure, or did you run free, with the burdens of yesterday's hopelessness trying to catch up to you?

What was it like for you when your heart heard the story your ears had been hearing for years?

Did religion chase after you like it did those first few years after Jesus went back to heaven?  As you tried to live in freedom, did the Pharisees try and tell you that yes, we agree, no sacrifices will probably be necessary, but you can't expect to have at least some sense of order.  You didn't really think you were totally free did you?

Not here on earth anyway.

When those first sins were committed, the ones that would have sent a pre crucifixion first century soul to the priest with a dove or two in hand, what did they think as they started their walk to the altar?  How far did they get, a small coin in their pocket, before they remembered?

I don't have to do this anymore.

I don't have to do this anymore.

I don't have to do this anymore.

Because

I'm free.

What was it like?

What were those first century Sunday's like until religion snuck its way in again?  Until those who had experienced the first freedom, who had tasted it and heard it and smelled it, died.  How long did it take for that first generation to be gone before the roots of religion began to regenerate and invade the hearts that had only heard about the dead people walking around, stones split in two, day turned to night?

How long?

How long did it take for you to go from tasting freedom, pure freedom, before being convinced that religion was the only way to manage the new relationship you were starting with a Savior you didn't know real well?

Did you exchange your worldly sins for religious sins?  The ones dressed and disguised as good works but really only a way to keep you trapped like the alcohol did or the anger or the depression?

I'm guessing, without knowing because I wasn't there and because the history books weren't written yet, that those first century believers -

those who saw and heard and felt and smelled and tasted the reality of a carpenter dying on a cross, rising from a stone sealed tomb, walking among his people before going back to where he came from 

- were in a constant pull between freedom and bondage.

Just like we are.

We get it, but the pull is strong to go back to what we once were.  The disguise is well made, the costume and masks are good covers.  We know we know that we know we tasted freedom.  But it gets vinegar and other bitter spices thrown in and what once tasted good now leaves a nasty after taste.

We know we're free, but it doesn't take much for our masks to come back on and we're wearing a costume that hides our heart.  We look like we're free and we say all the right words and sing the right songs and pray the right prayers.....

but when we look around, we see doves back in their cages, we hear the bleating of lambs and rams and flocks of sheep

we feel the burden of wondering if we're doing it right

if we're in the right church

if we're in the right bible study

if we're doing the right things

if we're giving enough

if we're sharing enough

if we're loving enough.


And soon, we find ourselves walking to the altar, our coin in our pocket, the proprietor of doves eager to sell a fine selection of "not quite perfect, but you really have to look to see its flaws."

So we pull out our coin, take the dove from the cage and walk slowly, head down, shame keeping it from lifting too high, guilt choking our praises...

we walk toward the altar that was destroyed once for all.  You know it was, but you've forgotten what freedom felt like since yours got choked out so long ago by well meaning religion.

The dove's descendants are gone, no stories to be shared as to what it's ancestors did for a soul's sin.
The innocent dove feels the priest's hands holding it firmly, feels the knife touch its throat, the blood draining out.

Will this time be enough?



Peace,

Ronda

Leviticus
Matthew 27; Mark 15; Luke 23; John 19; Hebrews 9-10




Tuesday, August 30, 2016

While we're assessing....

The change we long for in our country and our homes and our churches and our families and our work places starts with our personal assessment.  We can't skip to any of those outside of us, hoping that when those things change, it will be time for me to change.

Nope.  It doesn't work that way.

Change starts with one person and one person only.

You.  Me.

How can we expect others to change and make our world better if we're not putting the same expectation on our own hearts?

Is that really fair?

So, here I go, getting in your business again, but taking it to another level.  A  level that doesn't include you alone, but what you alone participate in collectively.  Clear as mud?  Great!  Hang in there!

It's going to take a little bit of an objective imagination, and you may get a little uncomfortable in the process, but I think if you're brave enough to at least try to look at this objectively you may be able to set aside your defensiveness or shame (Please, please, please - don't feel shame or guilt from these few posts!). 

Let's look at our circumstances and our places of living life as objectively as we can, shall we?  Let's remember, if you're a believer, God is the one with the greatest assessment skills and used those assessment skills to see the need for a Savior.  Let's take a deep breath.-really, take a deep breath .....................and ask some questions about our living spaces, shall we?  Those places we spend our time, not just our homes, but where we do life, our spiritual life, that is.  

If we start with our churches things that are happening in our country might make more sense.

(It is this writer's personal opinion that as goes the church, so goes the country.  If one is hemorrhaging so might the other.  We can debate another timewhich is bleeding out more.  Just bear with me.  You can swirl these words around, chew them up, or just spit them out, that's your right.  But I think if we really want to see change, we have to ask some hard questions in all areas of our lives).

Still with me?  Great!

Here we go.

Take a look around your towns and cities on a weekday.  Which parking lots are fullest?  Which parking lots are empty?

I noticed a few months ago, as I was visiting in the south, the buckle of the Bible belt, as I passed church after church on my way to the store that all the parking lots were empty.  But as I passed a hospital, the parking lot was packed!

Does anyone find that as interesting as I do?

You do!  Oh thank goodness, I thought I was the only one!

Remember those personal assessment questions I asked you in the previous post?  Ask them in relation to your church?  I know your parking lot is always busy, not just on Sunday, I'm asking the other people reading this.  Humor me, would you?

Is your church growing, not in numbers but in the sense of community amongst its members.  Is there anyone in your church or small group (taking into account the larger churches) that would tell their disgruntled ex church member neighbor that there is a plan in place for meeting the spiritual needs of each and every person who walks through the door, from the smallest in faith to the greatest pillar?

If someone were to ask you what steps of faith your church group has taken collectively in the last year, what could you tell them?  Have they paid off a huge debt?  Have they started a ministry for orphans and unwed mothers?  Are they in the process of taking in refugees? (These are examples, people, not tell tale must be done or we're ground hamburger!)

Would you say that you have expanded your circles to include people you didn't know a year ago, but have made it a point to meet someone new each week and have met that goal?

Have you bristled at first at the changes your church has tried, and now a few months or years later, you see the benefit of stepping out of your spiritual comfort zone for the sake of reaching others in your community?

(I know these are tough uncomfortable questions, and I wish I could just skip them, but I think they are important to ask).

What about your parking lot?  Is it empty during the week?  Does the pastor's car sit there sporadically along with the janitor's?  Or are your church's doors swinging day and night?

See, people go where they can get attention.  Where they can be heard, where concern is shown.  That's why hospital parking lots are overflowing during the week and doctor's appointments are so hard to get.  

It's why bars stay open during the day and into the wee hours of the morning.

The church doors are closed.

When the church doors stay closed, people take their worries and fears where they can express them. Where they can be fed and nourished and acknowledged.

There's a lot of expressing going on in the United States right now, wouldn't you agree?

I left the church 16 years ago, because the practices many held did not seem to mirror how I saw Jesus behave when I read his word.  (Taking into account my own issues besides, it's been a battle I wouldn't wish on anyone).  I've been standing in the hall way, looking in the rooms, trying to find the place where I really see him, not just a cheap imitation of him.  (That's painful to write, so it's got to be hitting a nerve for you too, maybe.  I'm sorry, if there was a different way I could get what I think God has shown me without causing pain, I would).

I grieve for our country and where it's headed, but I grieve for God's people even more.  We all have gotten caught up in taking sides, whether by choice or just by birth.  We have taken sides spiritually, politically and sooner or later, there are going to be no sides left to pick.  

How do we get those parking lots full everyday?  What are we willing to do cause a traffic jam at a church's driveway on a Tuesday afternoon, like the ones on the expressway on a Friday afternoon?

There's no perfect church, but there is a perfect God.

The church's ways aren't perfect, but God's are.

If we're brave enough to assess ourselves personally, I hope we're brave enough to take it to the next level.

If my faith is weaker than it was five years ago, wouldn't it make sense that same weak faith would effect those who I live life with?

If my bravery was diminished the moment I saw, as a teenager what happened to someone wanting to sing a new song in place of an old hymn, why should I care about being brave if it's only going to get shot down by those afraid to step out of their comfort zone?

If we're afraid to rock the boat as a leader, why do we expect those we lead to stand up for injustice outside of our circles and on the political stage?  

My heart longs to go where God's people are thriving.  I do so much better with people who spur one another on to bravery and greater faith than being with Debby Downers never willing to try anything new.

(I'm laying my heart out here, friends, please be kind.  If we could meet for lunch I'd share my struggle, I would tell you my whys and show you my journals as God has led me to find my way back into his visible family.  

C. S. Lewis wrote, in Mere Christianity:  

"I hope no reader will suppose that 'Mere Christianity' is here put forward as an alternative to the creeds of the existing communions - as if a man could adopt it in preference to Congregationalism or Greek Orthodoxy or anything else.  It is more like a hall out of which doors open into several rooms.  If I can bring anyone into that hall I shall have done what I attempted.  But it is in the rooms, not in the hall, that there are fires and chairs and meals.  The hall is a place to wait in, a place from which to try the various doors, not a place to live in.  For that purpose the worst of the rooms (whichever that may be) is, I think, preferable.  It is true that some people may find they have to wait in the hall for a considerable time, while others feel certain almost at once which door they must knock at.  I do not know why there is this difference, but I am sure God keeps no one waiting unless He sees that it is good for him to wait.  When you do get into your room you will find that the long wait has done you some kind of good which you would not have had otherwise.  But you must regard it as waiting, not as camping.  You must keep on praying for light; and, of course, even in the hall, you must begin trying to obey the rules which are common to the whole house.  And above all you must be asking which door is the true one; not which pleases you best by its paint and panelling.  In plain language, the question should never be:  'Do I like that kind of service?' but 'Are these doctrines true:  Is holiness here?  Does my conscience move me towards this?  Is my reluctance to knock at this door due to my pride, or my mere taste, or my personal dislike of this particular door keeper?'
    "When you have reached your own room, be kind to those who have chosen different doors and to those who are still in the hall.  If they are wrong they need your prayers all the more, and if they are your enemies, then you are under orders to pray for them.   That is one of the rules common to the whole house."

So, what does your room look like?  Is it warm, with cozy chairs and nourishing meals or is the fire only started once a week, and the chairs stacked after use and paper plates used for baloney sandwiches on stale bread?

The world is ready for a warm fire, a delicious array of food on their plate as they sit in a cozy chair, getting warmed by the fire of common faith and fellowship around a great and beautiful Savior.  They just don't know it yet.

They've been standing in the hall a long time, peering in, finding their excuses not to come in, but longing for someone to invite them with a sincere and humble heart.  Someone who is not uncomfortable not having all the answers, who can keep the fire burning and the plates full when they don't.  Who brings an ottoman to rest their feet on and throws a shawl around their shoulders to snuggle into.  Where there is no fear of a fire going out if they come in, but instead the fire will burn more brightly, it's sparks moving upward and and resting on the others in the hall longing to come in.


Peace,

Ronda


Assessment of the heart

If there's one word a nurse learns in nursing school and lives by on the job it is the word

ASSESS.

Assess, assess, assess....assess again.

For example, the patient says they are short of breath.  A prudent nurse would then get an oxygen level to determine the oxygen saturation, a set of vital signs, and also note whether the patient has complaints of pain and where.

He or she would then determine a host of other minute details, including, but not limited to checking their medication record for respiratory treatments, the positioning (are they laying flat on their back?) If they are on oxygen, is their tubing crimped?)

A nurse looks at as many details as quickly as he or she is able before calling the doctor for orders that go beyond what is in her scope of practice or already ordered.  A nurse is constantly assessing the people under her care.

Is this drug working?  Are the right precautions in place for a confused patient?  Does a patient need something to calm their nerves when they can't smoke?

Assessing is the number one role as a patient advocate.  If a nurse's assessment skills are weak then those patients may not get the best care available.

It takes practice to develop good assessment skills.  It doesn't take a lot of knowledge to take vital signs, but it does take a critical eye to assess whether a low or high blood pressure is critical for a patient who has just had surgery, versus a patient who has chronic high blood pressure but is taking their prescribed medications to keep their numbers within normal limits.

Assessment is something that all nurses are trained to do from day one of nursing school, and their skills are constantly being perfected throughout their career.  I have only been a nurse for six years.  My assessment skills are better then they were six years ago, but they are not on the same level as a nurse who has been assessing for thirty years.

Assessment skills come with practice, with making mistakes, and with studying the differences in your patients.  A good nursing assessment is what the doctor is waiting for when they are called in the middle of the night to make a decision for a patient whose health is deteriorating.

So what does that have to do with anything?

I'm so glad you asked!

Pretend you are a nurse.  If you were to take a moment or two and assess your spiritual well being, what would you find?  (Be honest, no one will ever know what you're thinking).

Are you closer to God today then you were last week?  Last month?  Last year?  Five years ago?  If not, why not?  Where or when did you sense you were drifting away?

What about your fears?  Has maturity taught you that much of what you worried about five years ago never came to pass or are you still worrying about the same scenarios that have yet to happen, but you're sure they will?

What about your courage?  Are you braver than you were last year or do you still find it difficult to speak up when you disagree with someone, risking the loss of the friendship or the respect you are afraid you'll lose if you do?

What about your faith?  Is it stronger, weaker, or about the same as it was when you took your confirmation vows thirty years ago?

Do you have more peace with the way your life has turned out or do you wish you could redo the last twenty years and start over?

What is your best honest assessment of.....you?

See, if a nurse were taking care of a patient who had an infection and the only antibiotic available were amoxicillin, he or she would be forced to take a wait and see attitude when it appeared the infection was not getting better, even when the lab work showed that the white blood cells were not decreasing but rather increasing.

But when there are better antibiotics available specifically designed to attack a specific bacteria, he or she may quickly call up the doctor and say, "Maybe we need to try a different antibiotic.  The lab results say this is the bug that is causing the problem."

Maybe things are great in your life and you are making baby steps each and every day and you are nodding your head thinking, I am better off than I was a year ago.  I do have better control of my emotions.  I am braver!  I do believe my faith is stronger than it was last year.

Great!  Praise the LORD!

But then again, maybe you're telling yourself things are good, you're taking the amoxicillin  just like the doctor ordered, but you can honestly say you are stagnant, nothing is better, in fact, things are getting worse.

See, if we don't assess ourselves, how do we know if we're taking the right antibiotic for our infection?

If we only take amoxicillin by mouth once a day, when what we need is vancomycin IV every eight hours, and we wonder why we're so anxious or afraid or depressed or worried, then maybe it's time for an honest assessment.

Maybe it's time to do some spiritual vital signs.

Is your spiritual blood pressure pumping the right amount of oxygenated blood to your spiritual heart?

Are your respirations calm and even, or are they shallow and fast?

Does your spiritual pulse race too fast because you're always going here, there, and everywhere for the LORD, or is it bordering on needing resuscitation because you are too depressed to do anything and what could I do for God when I'm such a mess?

Are you getting enough oxygen to your spiritual cells?  Does the oxygen go to every corner of your spirit and breathe new life into the smallest of faith?

Only you and God know these answers.  Maybe you've been hiding from them, but God hasn't.  Maybe it's time to talk to him about them.

I don't know.

But God does.

When a medical team gets all the vital signs, and the lab work, and the other test results, they then can see the big picture of what exactly is wrong with a patient, and a treatment plan can be made.  The right medicine can be given, the wrong medicine can be stopped.  Maybe medicine won't help, but sunshine and singing or playing with children is what will cure the soul.

But, until it is assessed, the plan can't be made and it won't ever be implemented.

So.....how about it?  Give it a try.  No one has to know the results except you.

God already knows what you need, he's just waiting for you to ask him to search.

Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.  See if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.

Who knows?  Maybe once a good assessment is done, you'll be able to find a better treatment for what is making you____________________________________.

But any good treatment starts with a good assessment.


Peace,

Ronda

Psalm 139




Sunday, August 28, 2016

When it takes a miracle

One of my favorite movies is the movie Miracle.  Have you seen it?  Kurt Russell plays the 1980 US Olympic Hockey coach, Herb Brooks.  Awesome movie.  I can't help but think of that movie since it was recently summer olympics season.

My favorite scene of the movie, the one that puts chills up and down my spine every time is the scene where, after the players find what's going on off the ice during a game more interesting than winning the game they are playing, Coach Brooks makes them stay on the ice after the congratulatory hand shakes.

They run the same drill, over and over and over again.  The other coach becomes more and more hesitant to blow the whistle after seeing the players puking and practically collapsing after the end of each drill.

But Coach Brooks, says, "Again."

And they do the drill, again.

Until finally, finally, one of the players finally gets it.  He finally gets the point of the coach's crazy behavior.

As his teammates lean over puking and barely able to stand, the one voice shouts his name above the retching.

Coach Brooks stops and says, "Who do you play for?"

To which the exhausted and out of breath player responds, "The United States of America!"

The practice ends with that proclamation.

See, up until that moment, it was all about the player and the college he played for.  If they were asked to introduce themselves at a practice, each one answered proudly their alma mater.  Coach Herb wasn't looking for that.

He was looking for a more refined answer.  The collective answer.  The team answer.  No one knew it though, the players or the audience watching.

Until that scene.

I've thought about that scene throughout the years since it was made.

Usually I think about it in relation to my own struggle in finding my place among other Christians.  I look for the place that sees the big team, not the players, or the members of the conference or the other teams that make up the conference under the umbrella word "Christian."

I've been in lots of churches with lots of names, and usually the second or third name of the church is "Christian," but the first is most often a denominational name - like Baptist or Lutheran or Orthodox or Methodist or Presbyterian.

I wonder, in religion's quest to perfect the regulations of Christianity, might we American Christians find it more exciting to say our name and what denomination we represent than it is to say simply, "I play for the Christian team?"

I know for a long while, I did.  I took pride in my understanding of a denominational view and felt more enlightened than another's denominational practice.  I felt holier somehow, more enlightened, more.....right.

But more and more, as I see what is happening in the world, from BLM to ISIS and all the initials in between, who do we really play for?  Who really is the enemy?

Deep and uncomfortable thoughts for a Sunday, I know.

If God knows how it all works out and who the real enemy is, then why do I let myself go down a rabbit hole of pointing out the falsehood of those who, from my viewpoint don't see truth from my viewpoint?  Wouldn't I and others be better off by searching more seriously for Truth for our own lives?

So let's take it a step further, since we are in the political season.  And the violence is erupting once again by those whose anger cannot be calmed with normal tools.

Are we Americans first or are we Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians or whatever else comes first and American second?

Are we black or white or hispanic or asian first or are we humans first?

It's going to take a Miracle to put out the fires burning around us.  I'm not sure if it's the Baptists or Lutherans or the Methodists who are in charge of the miracle department.  Which ones are ISIS intent on killing more?

I think it's the job of the Christians to believe in miracles, to pray for the miracles, to lay hope and wait for the miracles, to beg for the miracles.  If we can't see each other as brothers and sisters in Christ than there really is no point to our calling.  We are all the children of God, placed where we are by Him, for Him, to glorify Him.

Do we want it to be said of us that we found it more important to be of the "right" brand or flavor of Christianity or more important to live in Truth?  In a broken upside down world, right doesn't always look like Truth.  Only Truth looks right when it looks like Jesus.


Peace,

Ronda








It's starts with us

Unity.

It starts with us.

By us I mean, Christians.

By us I mean, followers of Christ.

It's time church.  The world is waiting.  The world is watching.  The world wants to believe there is "more" to the story that's been told thus far.

The enemy knows there is more to the story, that's why he's gaining ground.

The King of Kings has written the more to the story, it's time for us to start the next chapter.

History has debated and fought and argued and killed and wrote dissertations and creeds and built churches and tore down churches and called names and accused of heresy long enough.

It's time.

It's time for the true followers of Christ to unite.

The time for the work of the church of our parents and grandparents is dying.  Their practices were useful for its time, for their time, but it is not what will work for our time.

The evidence is all around us.  The "visible" church looks like the world.  In debt, breaking up, apart, divorcing from each other because each one has their own idea of what "right" looks like, what sin is or isn't.

Right looks and acts like Jesus.

He was kind and gentle.

And he was a badass.

He didn't mince words but he knew how to use words to get to the heart of the heart's deception.

It's time, Church.

The enemy's of Christ's church don't see our divisions at all.  All the years and tears and sweat and wars over creeds and thesis about words so few had the privilege to read and understand is now needed to be set aside, not thrown out, set aside, to make way for what God is doing for our generation and the generations to follow.

Our enemy doesn't care if we follow Apollo or Paul or Peter.  What offends our enemy is that we follow Christ.

That's what grinds his craw.  That's what makes his blood boil.

His anger is played out all over the world, yet we here in America think our enemy is the "other" denomination or the "other" color or nationality or political party.

Maybe it is.

But then again, maybe it isn't.  And if it isn't, are you ready for what the enemy can do?

Maybe the enemy will come looking for your group only, if you're the true followers and everyone else is "wrong."  I'm sure they've studied all the statements of faith that fill the atmosphere of cyberspace, sorting out the "true" believers from the untrue.  We've all made it perfectly clear, haven't we?

We are right because we do x, y, and z.

They are wrong because they do a, b, and c without doing x, y, and z first.

The enemy of Christ and his people does not care what Apollo or Peter or Paul or Calvin or Luther or Keller or anyone else says.  They get really ticked off by what Christ says.

So if you're of the mindset that everyone who doesn't belong to X denomination or political party probably is not a true believer, then I hope you're ready to stand on that when the enemy is at your door.  The rest of us will probably be safe if you are right.

(I am being very sarcastic and harsh for a Sunday, I know.)

Friends, the world is waiting for believers to act like believers, not spoiled children who don't like how the game is being played so they go home and start playing their own game.

Enough.

Either a follower of Christ believes in his heart that he is saved and confesses it with his mouth and that is the only mark he needs to be identified with Christ or he believes that AND....I must be a member of this denomination to seal the deal.

Which is it, Pharisee?

The world has seen enough division and disagreement and hatred and violence to last for eternity.

Which side are you really on?

The world knows deep down inside that there is Someone BIGGER and STRONGER and MIGHTIER then anything religion can throw at falsehood.  The world is LONGING for the bright light to shine and point the way to the truth that God has already placed in their hearts.

It is not too late.

Yet.

The world needs Christ.  Not the flavor of the month or the century or the millennium.

If we have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then be like-minded, having the same love and spirit and purpose.  Let us not do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility...HUMILITY, not pride, consider others better than we are.

We only have this life, this day to live this life.  This day to be light.

Tomorrow is not promised.

If God divides, God can unite, but it won't be because we continue to divide and splinter.

If we have any hint of any comfort, or encouragement or compassion, then don't wait any longer to be an agent of unity.

We are the children of Christ.  He calls us his brothers and sisters.  He doesn't look at us as our color or denomination or gender.

He sees His child.

The broken, hurting, sin tainted child he reaches down to pick up and comfort and set free.

If not us, then who?

If not now, when?


Peace,

Ronda

Sunday, July 31, 2016

I really love, no like, no like like, no love like, no love love him

When Jesus had the post resurrection love talk with Peter on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the language to English readers reads like this:

Jesus:  Peter, do you love me?
Peter:  Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
Jesus:  Feed my lambs.

Jesus:  Simon son of John, do you truly love me?
Peter:  Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.
Jesus:  Take care of my sheep.

Jesus:  Simon son of John, do you love me?
Peter:  (hurt, because Jesus asked him a third time - Do you love me?)  Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you."

Easy peasy, right?  What in the world did Jesus not get about Peter's answer?

Jesus' word for love was not the word Peter was expressing to him in return.

Gasp.

Jesus' word, agapao, means, to be elementary...love love.  As in a love that loves someone expecting nothing in return.  Agapao treats its object with respect and does things for the one loved for the loved ones benefit, not their own.

Jesus was simply asking Peter, "Do you love me enough to love me more than what I can do for you?"

Peter's word, phileo, means to like like.  Or to have a personal affection or fondness for someone.  It's highly subjective, a feeling of attachment, based on the loveliness or attractiveness of an object.  If you like like something, it's because you find qualities in the object which appeal to you.  It's a warm and fuzzy feeling towards someone, but it's purely relative.  It doesn't consider doing for the other, but rather what the other can do for you.

Not to be hard on Peter, because Peter did get it.  Eventually.  He figured out the difference and his like like turned to love love.  But at that moment, he was in the moment.  He was talking to his friend who, the last time he saw him he was dead.  I imagine his mind may have raced with the possibilities and excitement of having a friend such as one who could do what Jesus did - and what it would mean for Peter.

Do you agapao me?  Yes, Lord, I like like you (and I'm wondering how in the world I'm going to be able to tell people I know the guy who raised himself from the dead).

Do you agapao me?  For crying out loud, Lord, yes, I like like you!  (The boys and I have to organize, we have to start planning how we're going to explain this).

Jesus knew Peter wasn't getting it....yet.

Do you phileo me?  Yes, Lord, I like like you (Finally, we're on the same page!  Now, how can we use your power to advance our agenda?)*

Peter would eventually get the difference.  It wouldn't be a definition in his head, but the will of his heart.  He would go from having head knowledge only of  what it means to love another like a brother and hopefully there's something in it for me - to a surrendered man who would love others more than he loved himself, especially, and most importantly, Jesus.

Here are some of the things Peter later said using agapao.  (I would imagine feeding human sheep and lambs were hard lessons in learning the difference between love words):

"Though you have not seen him, you agapao him...agapao one another deeply, from the heart...agapao  the brotherhood of believers....whoever would agapao life and see good days must keep his tongue from evil and his lips from deceitful speech...agape each other deeply because agape covers over a multitude of sins..."

In all of Peter's recorded words after that post resurrection breakfast, Peter uses agape or its variation 9 out of 11 times.

In the end, Peter got what the difference between love love and like love is.

He went from admiring Jesus and the warm and fuzzy feeling he got being around him, to loving Jesus more than himself.

What about you?  If you're like me, each day, heck, each hour can be different.  I like like the things about Jesus that make me feel good.  But it's really, really, really....really hard for me to love love like Jesus love loves me.

So very, very hard.

But he's equipped me with the ability.  Peter knew it.  He figured it out and he told us.

"His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness....For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, LOVE."  (the agape kind).

I'm sure if Peter could have had a do over, that breakfast conversation on the beach would have been first on his list.

Jesus:  Peter, do you agapao me?
Peter:  Yes, Lord, I love love you.



Peace,

Ronda

John 21
1 Peter
2 Peter

(The two places where Peter does not use agape are 1 Peter 1:22 - sincere love  for your brothers - and 1 Peter 3:8 - love as brothers).


Agapao is love rooted in the mind and will of the subject and it means to value, esteem, prize, treat as precious.  While generally it may have a less personal or emotive connotation than phileo, it does not signify a love of lesser quality or one totally devoid of feeling.  For example, it described the love one had for his benefactor, not personal fondness but appreciation or respect.  Such love entails the treatment of things with value or respect, and consequently, action which is done for the benefit of that object.  Theologically, it represents God's action in sending His only Son to die for the world.  Between sinful man and holy God there was no phileo to speak of.  Rather, God placed such value upon mankind, showed such estimation of him, that though he deserved nothing but rejection and wrath, God sacrificed His one and only Son, Jesus Christ, for man's salvation.  This was done for man's good and solely because God, the subject, accord him this wholly underserved value.  In some contexts, however, phileo and agapao evince no discernible difference in meaning and are quite synonymous (John 5:20; 16:27; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Rev 3:19).

Phileo - personal affection, fondness for something, often the love of friends.  It is a highly subjective feeling of attachment or amity which is based upon the loveliness or attractiveness of an object.  One loves something in this way because he finds qualities which appeal to him and create a warm and personal fondness for that object.

Keyword study bible NIV; Lexical aids to the New Testament
AMG Publishers

*I am being very tongue in cheek here, I do not know what Peter was thinking, this is only unsanctified speculation, based on my own ungodly thinking and the observation of religion's take on God's commands throughout church history.  I will ask Peter when I meet him someday - "What were you thinking when you saw your friend alive?"

Maybe his answer will be like mine.  At first, I like liked him, than I like loved him, and for the rest of my life I sought to love love him.