Archive for the ‘Theological Musings’ category

Let Us Pray

October 27, 2014

I grew up bowing my head, eyes closed and hands clasped, to pray.  Over the course of my walk with God, however, I have gradually acknowledged that no part of that posture is necessary.  In history I learned that Stonewall Jackson prayed while riding his horse.  In my own pew, I observed my mother dealing with my youngest siblings before they were old enough to understand that “let’s pray” meant they needed to be quiet.  Neither of these situations allows for closed eyes or clasped hands.  In a war torn countryside, it’s doubtful that General Jackson kept his head bowed either.

I also learned that bowing in respect to Almighty God was more of a heart thing than a posture thing.  Have you parents ever had a child who sat when told, but you could tell they were still standing on the inside?  Have you ever been that child?  Well, sometimes we bow our heads, but our minds and hearts are so full of other things, that we might as well be walking out the door already.  Bowing your head ought really to be an outward sign of an inward reality, but instead, it has become a form, a traditional posture, that can be easily mimicked.  So posture is not the key to prayer.  But that doesn’t answer the original question.  Now jump forward to my late teens.

That’s when I met my Father God.

Sure, I already knew He was my father, but it wasn’t until my teens that I recognized something important.  I began to understand that God loves for His children to come gladly running to meet Him, whether in prayer, or devotions, or in going about His work.  My prayers became much more familiar, like I would talk to my earthly father.  And I began to look upward while praying.

You see, while I picture the Spirit as being inside me, and Jesus walking beside me, God the Father is in Heaven, so when talking to Him, I wanted to look toward Him, trusting like a little girl instead of hanging my head like a condemned sinner.  Yes, I still bow my head in reverence sometimes.  I also bow it in shame at others, but I am learning to bring everything to my Heavenly Father with confidence (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16; Romans 8:14-17).

So when I pray, and often while I listen to others pray, I look toward heaven.  I do tend to close my eyes, as that helps cut down on distraction, but looking up helps me remember that I am now a child of God, and He loves to involve His children in His work.  So I encourage you to step back and see if you bow your head simply because that’s what everyone does, or if you do it with a good reason.  I also encourage you that God is a Father who loves you, wants to hear from you, and wants to talk to you.  He desires fellowship, and I’ve always found that’s easiest with people if I look at them.  Why should fellowship with God be so different?  After all, He walked with Adam, didn’t He?

I look forward to the day when we walk with Him on golden streets, and can look Him in the eye.  What joy that uninterrupted fellowship will be!

To be like Naomi

December 6, 2013

In my quiet time this week, I found myself thinking of the famous women in the Bible.  I didn’t get very far, because when I reached Ruth, it suddenly struck me that I usually skip right past her mother-in-law, Naomi.  Naomi, whose name means “my delight.”   Naomi, whose testimony is one I’d like to emulate.

Of course, I am not looking for my husband to run away to Moab to escape a famine, but Naomi followed him faithfully.  I can see her struggling when her sons married “outside the camp” and her daughters-in-law were heathens, but I also see that she had good relationships with both women.

When she heard that the famine was over, she quickly decided to return to her homeland, where she could expect to at least be cared for by the Israelite welfare system, which allowed the poor to glean in the corners and after the harvesters had done their work.

As she set out, both her daughters-in-law were ready to go with her.  That speaks volumes of Naomi’s testimony.  They recognized that she was different than they, and worth being around.  Now, Naomi also realized that she couldn’t really expect either girl to be well received on the other end of her journey, and there wasn’t much future for them either.  So she told them to stay in Moab where they had a better chance of a new life.  Of course we know Ruth, recognizing that Naomi had something she wanted, refused to stay.

Where you go, I’ll go; where you lodge, I will lodge; your people will be my people; and your God, my God (Ruth 1:16b).  That statement must have been growing in Ruth as she watched Naomi’s life, leaving her home, then losing her family, and now going back to her people.  Naomi’s everyday life must have been such that Ruth not only saw that she was different, but that she wanted to be like her.  We don’t have a record of Naomi preaching at anyone, and that would have been unlikely.  All we know is Ruth did not have to follow her, but she did because she wanted to.  Wanted to so fiercely, she was willing to give up everything, including her gods, to follow Naomi’s God.

We all know that the story continues with Ruth catching the eye of Boaz, and that he becomes the Kinsman Redeemer according to the law and marries Ruth.  When their son was born, Naomi was his nurse, helping to raise a new generation.  And it dawns on me that even as Ruth is part of the genealogy of Christ, so is Naomi.  Not by direct blood, since Obed was not her blood son, but she was his grandmother through Ruth.  As such, Obed would have also seen her testimony, and if people then were like people now, he would have told stories of Ruth and Naomi to his sons, and their sons.  And you know, one of Obed’s grandsons was named David.

Because one woman lived what she believed, a second was brought to follow God.  And that second woman was an integral link in the line of Messiah.  This challenges me because I am not a street preacher.  I don’t take to overt evangelism, and am suited more to live for God and let others ask me questions because they see something different.  I see Naomi as doing that same thing.  Evangelism was not a big thing then, and the Jews rather had a sense of being better than other people because they were “chosen by God.”  They had forgotten that He chose them in His mercy and not because they had anything to boast about.

Naomi lived what she believed, and  God used her.  Am I living what I believe?  Are you living what you believe?  Are we challenging a new generation to follow God?

Do not be discouraged if you don’t see immediate fruit.  Everyday evangelism is about the long term.  It’s about building relationships which then give you a right to speak into peoples’ lives.  And God uses the lives of His children to draw others to Himself.

Many people are like Ruth, coming to God through the example of another.  But are you willing to be a Naomi?  To be the example for others to follow?  To live for God even when you don’t think anyone is watching?

Let’s be the shining testimony to a generation that faces ever darkening days.

Are You Ready to Let Go?

April 28, 2013

Today started like any normal Sunday.  I was up and ready in good time to make it to church early with the rest of the worship team for warm-up.  Worship went smoothly, and the congregation settled in to the sermon.  We had one of our missionaries in town, so we were eager to hear how his ministry was going.  He took us through a brief slideshow of pictures from his mission field, and we were all ears.

Then he began to share what the Lord had been speaking to him during this last term.  The message he brought back to us was one very pertinent for American Christians, and the church at large.

In his particular field, the natives generally follow animism.  They make offerings and prayers to the spirits of the rocks and trees around them, hoping that by so doing they will win favor and help.  This missionary shared with us that in his own life and in that of the church, we have strayed to this kind of thinking.  We understand the cross was used to save us, but then we live as if after salvation, everything is based on what we do.  We think that we win favor and blessing by our good acts.

That is not what scripture teaches.  We can do nothing that God needs, and therefore anything He sends is not in response to anything we can offer.  Acts 17: 22-31 contains Paul’s sermon on Mars’ Hill.  In it, Paul expounds on this idea.  We cannot merit God’s favor.  We can only serve Him because as God He is worthy of our service.  His blessings are not tied to our behavior, but flow from God’s grace and goodness towards us.

So the question for the day is, are you ready to let go?  Are you trying to live the Christian life, and by so doing earn a place in Heaven?  Earn a good life?  Earn health and prosperity?  Earn favor with God and men?  Or have you let go of doing and embraced service?

The gospel is not about you.  The good news is about Christ.  He paid the debt.  He transforms us into His own likeness.  He glorifies Himself through us.  As we serve Him, growing in the knowledge of His love, He is able to use us mightily.

It’s all about Christ.

Let’s leave it that way.

Busyness

October 2, 2012

Do you ever feel like you don’t have time?

Your day is stuffed full and there are still things that don’t get done because you run out of time.  Whether it’s correspondence, housekeeping, errands, phone calls, or (horrors!) blogging, something has to wait another day because this one has no room left.

Sometimes I feel like that at work.  I stuff everything I can into an 8 hour day, and there’s still stuff left for tomorrow or next week.  It’s a good feeling to know that I have plenty to do.  I like to stay busy.  It’s when I feel like I’m swamped at home as well that I begin to worry a little.

I don’t like feeling like my whole week’s schedule is so full that I don’t have any flexibility.  As you know, I am a homeschooler, so I’m used to being very flexible.  We could shift our schoolwork to another time of day at the drop of a phone call sometimes.  Mom would hear from someone that they needed help, and if necessary we would quickly rearrange our plans to accommodate.   Of course, we didn’t throw out our routine for little things, but we were free to change things on the fly.

I had one semester of school during my junior year of college in which I was taking 16 credits during the week and working 15 or so hours on the weekends.  For ten or twelve weeks straight.  The experience taught me that I need my family time, my friends time, and my hobby time if I’m going to be able to give my best in other areas.

If you are constantly on the go, you don’t get time to recharge.   You might think that you thrive on a fast-paced atmosphere and that you can handle the pressure, but I don’t think I’m on too shaky a limb when I guess that even people who feed off full schedules and interacting with other people need to spend some time apart now and again.

My biggest issue with full schedules is that they don’t leave room for spontaneous acts of kindness or for random phone calls or for chatting with your neighbors.  In a world where we are rapidly becoming connected with everyone except those closest to us – thanks to smart phones, email, and social media – I wonder how much busy-ness has effected our ministries.

I work for a Christian organization where people come first, and that includes employees as well as the people we serve.  I have witnessed my boss take time out of a very busy day to talk with an employee who just needs a pep talk, or who has a family situation they need to talk through.  I’ve tried to adopt this attitude myself, taking time to ask my coworkers how things are going, and being sensitive to responses.  Granted, I do have my own work to get done as well, and sometimes I have deadlines calling, but people come first.

I encourage you to think about your own priorities.  When someone calls you and needs to talk, are you available?  Or do you always have things going on?  I understand that you won’t always be able to take time for everyone.  Sometimes you are already having one of those conversations when someone else interrupts your busy day.  But is your natural response to say, “I’m too busy,” or do you look for a way to fit them in?  Think about it.

Jesus was teaching one day, and a whole houseful of people was listening, when the man with palsy was dropped through the roof by four determined friends.  Our Lord interrupted his teaching to deal with this man.  He could have asked him to wait until he was finished.  He could have asked the man to come back another time when He wasn’t so busy.  But He didn’t.  He addressed him then and there.  He answered the burning questions in the man’s heart when He told him that his sins were forgiven.  And then He told the man to rise and walk (in response to the things the scribes were thinking).  And Mark 2:12 says that those who saw “were all amazed, and glorified God.”

How busy are you?

Too busy to help a friend?  To chat with a neighbor?  To help out at church?  To get together with friends?

Or do you leave yourself time in your schedule for those unexpected ministries that God sends you?

Think about it!

Waiting for … Eleazer?

July 27, 2012

I’ve been struck lately by the whole “prince charming” phenomenon.  Disney probably hasn’t helped girls in their preparation for young womanhood by giving them a plethora of pictures where the prince comes along, meets a girl, falls in love, and marries the princess or the beauty (nor is Disney the only culprit, lest you think I’m anti-Disney or something).  I know, I know, there’s usually a catch, like a dragon or a wicked witch, or some such obstacle, but fairy tales resolve themselves in short order.  In real life there is more to it than that.

~*~

So let’s think about some old love stories.  One of the first recorded love stories is of a girl who went to a well.  This was something she did every night, and she probably had no warning that tonight was going to be any different.  Tonight she met a traveler.  Perhaps she saw the caravan first, and looked to see if this rich train was led by a handsome young man.  When she saw that he was middle-aged or more, definitely no dashing young prince charming, she was not deterred, and she offered to give him drink, and then to water his camels.  Her servant’s heart was evident, and she thought of no reward.  Imagine her wonder when the man gives her gold bracelets and asks her questions about her family, and whether he can lodge with them!

We usually read Rebekah’s story from Eleazar’s standpoint, of how he prayed for guidance and then met her at the well.  But think, girls, she was there doing her daily chores.  She wasn’t off on some mission’s trip, nor was she flirting at youth group.  She was living in the light God had given and doing good to others!  And apparently she wasn’t afraid to work, either, because watering ten thirsty camels until they’ve finished drinking is a lot of work.  And she was hospitable; she invited Eleazar and his camels home before she knew that he was of her great-uncle’s household.

Then, Eleazar asks her to travel with him to become the bride of his master’s son, Isaac.  I’m guessing he told her about Isaac, probably in fairly general terms, and about what kind of inheritance Isaac would have.  The last part was probably for her family’s benefit, because if I know a woman, she could have cared less if his father had had only a few sheep instead of many flocks.  The adventure probably sparked her interest all by itself, but it would also have been cause for some deep thought and prayer.  Whether she had misgivings or no, she could not help but see God’s hand in leading Eleazar to her, and when her brother and father would have kept them there some weeks in preparation, she told them simply “I will go.”  And she went with Eleazar to meet a bridegroom she did not know.

~*~

Okay, here’s another old story with another well.  This time the girl was a shepherd.  She kept her father’s sheep.  Every day she had to bring her sheep to a well which had a stone covering it.  That stone took many men to lift, so she probably did not hurry to get there early.  But one day, as she came to the well, a stranger was standing there talking to some of the other shepherds.  Surely she was mistaken, but it seemed as if he was only waiting until he saw her coming, and then he rolled the stone away singlehandedly.  If he was going for the impressive factor, he succeeded!  This stranger proceeded to water her flocks, and then he told her that he was her father’s nephew, and she ran home to bring her father out to greet Jacob.

Yep, we generally read this one from Jacob’s perspective.  It’s very easy to get tangled up in the Laban vs. Jacob bargaining and the daughter swap that lands Jacob with two wives, but the beginning of this romance was that Jacob saw Rachel about her father’s business.  And he helped her water her flock.  Later he would take over her job of caring for Laban’s flock.  Come to think of it, Laban apparently had sons too, because later on, they get worried about how Jacob is making off with the lion’s share of Laban’s flocks (fairly worked for, of course).  Makes me wonder what they were up to while Rachel watched the flocks, but I will resist the temptation to digress here.

~*~

So, two love stories.  Two plot lines.  And which will your romance look more like?  We tend to imagine something more along the lines of Jacob, rolling the stone off the well.  I’ll admit, he made a big first impression.  But girls, don’t take it for granted that you’re looking for a Jacob and therefore miss Eleazar when he rides into town.  A train of ten camels is not to be sneezed at, so don’t !

What do we do in the meantime?  What were Rachel and Rebekah doing?  Living in their fathers’ houses, doing the work laid out for them.  Whether you have a job outside the home or in, you can be pursuing God’s plan for your life as part of the family He has placed you within right now.  Don’t fret about the future, but prepare yourself for it.  When your future comes knocking, don’t be caught saying “wait, I’m not ready for this.”   I wouldn’t even worry about the hows, wherefores and whys.  What is important is to live as God leads you, whether the guy at the well is Jacob or Eleazar.

Do you trust God to bring you your Jacob? Remember girls, when he met Laban’s daughters, he was nowhere near the man who became called Israel. Can you wait for His timing for Eleazar to bring you to your Isaac? We don’t know what Rebekah thought when she watered those camels, but she probably wasn’t thinking “oh, here’s someone who can introduce me to a nice young man, I’ll water his camels too.”  Don’t be shocked if your story takes some faith-deepening twists.

And how did each of these love stories end?  Each man loved his wife, and they went about their Father’s will together, for both couples were links in the chain that would eventually set the world free.

To the beat of a different drum

July 5, 2012

This song spoke to me again the other day, reminding me that I am indeed a warrior, but I am also a child.  And I do go running home when I fall down.

As Christians, we are soldiers.  The battle belongs to the Lord, but He has chosen to clothe us in His armor and let us stand in the fight.  Most of the armor we wear is defensive, although we do participate when we use the “Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God,” and when we “pray always with all prayer.” (Ephesians 6)  It’s not as glamorous as the colorful depictions of cavalry charges from centuries gone by.  Most of us don’t even go out to fight; instead we fight by living everyday lives through His strength, which upsets the Enemy very much.

Probably few would look at us and say, wow, I want to join them, that’s so inspiring.  I’m okay with that being a first response, and I will endeavor to show them otherwise as time goes on.  Most of the world will laugh and turn away, but that’s okay.  I’m used to swimming up stream.  I’ve pretty much always marched to the beat of a different drum.

WDJD? – from Rachel Starr Thompson

June 30, 2012

After my attempts to put life in shoe leather recently, I find that Rachel Starr Thompson has done a better job with it.

… Back in my teen years, “What would Jesus do?” was the catchphrase that identified the in-crowds of young Christendom. We wore “WWJD?” on our wrists, around our necks, and on our backpacks. But I never confessed how much the question frustrated me. … read the rest at Boundless Webzine.

I have to agree with Rachel.  The question of what Jesus did is much more helpful than the question of what He would do.  It’s much easier to imitate what we know He did than first to imagine what His response today would be and then to imitate the imagination.


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