Monthly Archives: October 2017

When it Feels Wrong

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He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.  He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him  But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Mark 8:31-34

I think I would be like Peter, “Say, what?  The Messiah is going to have to suffer?  He’s going to die?  Oh, no, no, no Jesus, you’ve got it all wrong.  I’m investing my life in you.  You’re my shining hope.   You’re going to throw down the establishment.  You’re going to make everything better.”

I just have this mindset that suffering means something is wrong.  I’ve been on this life long quest to live the right life, a safe life.  And to me, that means a life where I don’t make mistakes and I avoid suffering.  Because, again, suffering would mean that something is going wrong. It would mean that Satan is winning, that worse is sure to happen.

It would mean being out of control.  After all, how could being sucked into a vortex of chaos be part of God’s plan?

But when Peter tried to tell Jesus something like this, he got rebuked.  Jesus called him out in front of his bros, said he was “Satan.”  Ouch.

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God just sees things in a whole different way than we do.

Lately I’ve been thinking about how one of the attributes of God is peace.  Peace is one of the fruits of the Spirit. (Gal 5:22)  The famous blessing of Numbers 6 says, “May the LORD show you his favor and give you his peace.” (Num 6:26 NLT)

And I’ve thought, “How can God be peaceful?  There’s so much bad going on all the time.”

But then I realized that God isn’t afraid of the bad things.  They grieve him deeply, but he doesn’t fear them.  Because he is stronger than evil.  Because he can stop it at any time.  Because he knows his plan, which is good and unfolding as he intends.  Because he knows he will win.

God really is peace.

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And I saw that this peace extends to me.  I am never outside of God’s control, never out of the reach of his hand.  Chaos cannot sweep me away.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your hand will guide me, your right hand will hold me fast.  Ps 139:9

Okay, confession here.  I love to read romances. There’s a frequent theme — a female character who is beautiful but bratty gets pursued by a male character who has such a force of love for her that no matter what she does, he’s not deterred.

Of course this is fiction.  I could do a lot of damage to my marriage by being bratty.

But it’s not fiction when it comes to God.  My little fits and snits aren’t going to scare him away. He doesn’t think, “Sheesh, this girl has issues!   Let me go hang with someone else instead.”

No!  His heart’s desire to hang with me — and with you!  He will never turn away.

And that is why Jesus had to suffer and die.  It was part of his plan for you.  He pursued you, and nothing is going to deter him from sticking to you like glue.

It just doesn’t feel like love, sometimes.  It doesn’t feel like things are going right.

Here’s what we think it should feel like– the song from the Lego Movie.

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And it’s so hard to not be like prideful Peter when it doesn’t go that way.

We just had an outdoor service on one of the coldest days of the year. It was preceded by a men’s campout the night before, where the guys had to endure rain and temperatures in the thirties!

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We planned to have piping hot chili for our fellowship lunch.  I fussed and slaved over cooking my chili.  I heated it in the crock pot, and then once I got to the location, I got out our special extension cord with multiple outlets and plugged it in so it wouldn’t get cold.

There was just one thing.  There were at least 7 other crock pots of chili and soups.  Some of them were cold when they got there, and had to be heated up.  But there weren’t enough outlets on the serving table.  So we had to unplug the warm ones and plug in the colds ones.

Then we started church.  I tried to focus on worship.  But I kept getting nervous.  What if the crock pots that were unplugged were getting cold? It was 38 degrees, and windy!  Would there be anything worse than eating cold chili on a cold day?  So I brought a couple of the crock pots, including mine, into the kitchen to plug them in there.  I had to set them on a narrow ledge by the sink.  In the process of arranging them, my crock pot fell in the sink with a loud clatter, dumping out a sizable part of my wonderful chili.  Ack!!

It reminds me of my life.  I try so hard to make everything perfect, and my efforts can actually make things worse!

It would be easy to complain about the things that were challenging about our outdoor service.  I do need to apologize to the moms who brought their little children.  I thought that would work, but it was too cold for the babies.

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Ken feeding a cold Elena.

But as I kept rehashing the things I wished had gone more smoothly, it occurred to me that maybe there was a reason God made the coldest time to be the days of our men’s campout and outdoor service.

Maybe God’s thinking wasn’t our thinking.  Maybe he wanted us to see that happiness isn’t based on living our comfortable routines, but on something deeper.

Maybe we needed for our chili to spill and our fingertips to get numb to learn that we could find joy anyway.

I saw so many things that inspired me.  Brian having his quiet time in the chilly early morning.

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Bill going above and beyond to cook a hearty breakfast.

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Graham preaching when he was frozen to the bone and had to wear a blanket.  Here he is leading a prayer.

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Nate manning the little camping stove and heating a pan of water so everyone could have hot drinks.  (Wish I had a picture of that.)  I could go on and on.

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Cairo was a trooper too!

You know, even though it was challenging, everyone was cheerful and looking for ways to serve.

It was like the Grinch who stole Christmas.  No matter what, we still had a joyful time being together.

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Sometimes God doesn’t have things go like we think they should.  Sometimes it feels wrong.

But we can let Jesus’s rebuke to Peter be one to us as well.  Get behind us, Satan!  No complaining!  No faithlessness!  No just thinking of the concerns of men!

Let’s seek to have God’s mindset.  Let’s seek to have his peace, as we trust that he is in control, and know that he is committed to us.

When we do, just like what happened with the outdoor service, we will be stronger.  We will find deeper joy.

 

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Filed under Mark, Peace

When Healing Takes Awhile

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They came to Bethsaida, and some people brought a blind man and begged Jesus to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him outside the village. When he had spit on the man’s eyes and put his hands on him, Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?”

He looked up and said, “I see people; they look like trees walking around.”

Once more Jesus put his hands on the man’s eyes. Then his eyes were opened, his sight was restored, and he saw everything clearly.  Jesus sent him home, saying, “Don’t even go into the village.”  Mark 8:23-36

“They look like trees walking around.”  I think thing that resonates with this story for me is that the man wasn’t completely healed on the first go around.  I can relate to his blurry vision!  I, too, take my hurts and weaknesses to the Lord, and I get some better, but I still feel like I’m bumping around in the world.

Ha!  Just like the people in the story, we expect that when we come to Jesus, everything is going to get fixed right away.  It often doesn’t work that way.

I have an underlying anger (with flavors of discontent, pride and faithlessness) that I wish Jesus would just poof away in me.  It’s so hard to get a handle on.  I work on it.  I look at the example of Jesus.  I look at the cross.  I look at my sin.  I seek to trust more.  All of these things help.  But then  I feel the anger bubble up out of what seems to be nowhere, and it begins to simmering under the surface. If I’m not careful, it will rule my day.

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But I have finally been getting a better handle on my anger.  I’ve gotten to the root of it more.  I’ve found Biblical solutions that finally clicked!

I’m so glad I hung in there. I think sometimes God just wants us to learn to persevere.

  • By your patient endurance, you will gain your souls.  Luke 21:19
  • Not only that, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance;perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4
  • You need to persevere, so that after you have done God’s will, you will receive what He has promised.  Heb 10:36
  • . . . because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Allow perseverance to finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.  James 1:3-4
  • He who perseveres to the end will be saved.  Matt 24:13

I believe that one reason God allows us to struggle, is so that we will come to him.  The blind man was willing to take Jesus’s hand and go wherever he was led.  He was willing to let Jesus put spit on his eyes!  Okay, maybe the blind man didn’t think that is as gross as we think.  But what does it take to get to the point of going with Jesus whereever he leads?  Look at what Paul wrote in II Corinthians 1:8b-9:

We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt we had received the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead.  II Cor 1:8-9

Things happen so we learn to rely on God.

Is this to be a one time lesson?

I learned something interesting about the beatitude, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness.” (Matt 5:6)   The actual wording of that verse means that you have a continual hunger for righteousness, not a hunger where you’re satisfied and it’s gone.

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Okay, maybe it’s a bit extreme. But it’s funny!

I think we’re meant to have a continual hunger.  I think that we’re meant to go through life like the blind man who is half healed, with blurry vision.  “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror . . . ”  (I Cor 13:12)  We’re not there yet, and that’s a good thing, because it keeps us thirsting for God.   It keeps us looking to him as the only real source and solution.

Jesus does heal.  I am so thankful that God gave me the strength to persevere.  I can think of so many things in my life that are miraculously better — my marriage, my friendships, situations with my family, situations with my emotional health.  Many of my spiritual dreams have come true.

But there will always be other things, like my anger, that tempt me to despair.

I have to remember that even Paul, who had the power to heal others, couldn’t heal his own “thorn in the flesh.”  Jesus told him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  II Cor 12:9a

Sometimes we need grace, more than we need healing.  Because Grace is sufficient.  It can assuage the hunger.

Last week I visited my friend Bobbie.

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Love this picture of Bobbie (right) with our friend Nanyumpka.

Bobbie has some health challenges, and hasn’t been able to get out much.   This is hard, because Bobbi has a huge heart.  She wants to be with people and love them.

“My body wants to be full of energy and stamina,” Bobbie told me.  “But this is a different season.  I am so content and happy.” 

Isn’t that amazing that Bobbie is content and happy?  Bobbie has learned to feed on the grace, the spiritual food that satisfies her even when her health is poor and her life could dissatisfy.

Let’s all learn to feed on the grace.  Let’s learn to persevere.  And let’s learn to hope.

Because healing in some areas will come while we’re on earth.  And one day we will be completely healed in heaven.

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Filed under Healing, Mark, Perseverance

Being Good Yeast

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Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”  They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”  “But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”  Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”  Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.  Mark 8:27-30

Peter flat blurted it out, “You are the Messiah.”  He didn’t make it more palatable or politically correct.  He just put the truth out there.

And this was actually a pretty amazing thing.  Because most people were watering down who Jesus was.  Sure, they thought he was impressive.  But they didn’t go all the way, and say he was the Messiah.

Peter was the one who uncloaked the elephant in the room.  And I think when he said it, the light came on for the other disciples.  They may have known it on some level, but Peter’s confession tore away the cobwebs and the excuses and stuck a chord of truth.

I’ve been impressed lately about the power of proclaiming and living the truth in a pure and simple way.  It is good yeast on the lives around us.

I’ve been totally inspired by the book we’re reading in our marriage group, the “You and Me Together” by Francis and Lisa Chan.

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Last week’s marriage group.

The Chans do something so cool.  They actually try to live by the scriptures.  Yeah, I thought I was doing that.  But the book called me higher, just like when Peter made his confession.   I realized that I was watering my convictions down.  I wasn’t going for the pure, good stuff, like living as if my treasure is in heaven.

Peter had the ability to be single minded and direct, and that changed the world.  In Matthew’s rendition of this passage, Jesus says that his church would be built on the confession that Jesus is Lord.  He also said that Peter would have the keys of the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 16:18-19)  And this came true.  On the day of Pentecost, in Acts 2, Peter laid out the truth plainly, and when he did so, he unlocked the door to heaven for people by preaching the message that showed them how to be saved.

We need this message.  We need the good yeast!  We drift towards wishy-washiness over time.

There’s just one thing.  In this passage, Jesus did the the total opposite of what I just said.  He warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he is the Messiah.

Hmmm.  Of course, ultimately Jesus did want people to spread the good news.  He said at the end of Mark, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”

So it must not have been the right time for the disciples to preach.  Also, I think that while he was on earth, Jesus wanted to see who would have the heart to completely respond to him.  He liked to say, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:9, 4:23 Matthew 11:15, 13:9)

Thus, there are two elements in play in this passage.  We see the need for truth that is not compromised, and we see the need to respond without compromising.

A week ago Ken and I were stymied by a sticky marriage situation a couple was having, and we asked a wise person for advice.    I thought we would be given a practical solution.  Instead, we were told that the man and woman need to surrender to the Lord more.  And it was like a veil fell away from my mind.  “Of course,” I said to myself.  “It’s so simple, but it’s so true.”

In reading “You and Me Together,” I thought we would be getting more nuts and bolts on how to have a good marriage.  Instead it’s about 90% about how to have the right relationship with God.

The nuts and bolts are good.  But what we need most is Jesus as our Messiah, our Lord.

What would we have said if we had been with him when Jesus asked, “Who do you say I am?”  Honestly, I would have been tempted to temper my response and give a safe answer.  I might not have flung myself into the deep end, like Peter.

But being a disciple is about flinging ourselves in the deep end.  We die to self.  We lose our lives.

All of us so desperately need the good yeast to help us to go all the way.  Let’s be that for one another.  Let’s proclaim that Jesus is Lord with our words and our lives.

The church is still built on this truth.

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Filed under Discipleship, Mark

The Battle to be Kingdom Minded

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The disciples had forgotten to bring bread, except for one loaf they had with them in the boat. “Be careful,” Jesus warned them. “Watch out for the yeast of the Pharisees and that of Herod.”  They discussed this with one another and said, “It is because we have no bread.”  Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked them: “Why are you talking about having no bread? Do you still not see or understand? Are your hearts hardened?  Do you have eyes but fail to see, and ears but fail to hear? And don’t you remember?  When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied. “And when I broke the seven loaves for the four thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” They answered, “Seven.”  He said to them, “Do you still not understand?” Mark 8:14-21

You know, I think I’m pretty spiritual, until I am in a different environment, away from my usual routines.  A couple of weeks ago, I went to California to help my dad and stepmother, Mom C, while she was in the hospital.

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I had good intentions of doing all kinds of great stuff while I was there.  I planned to text friends and encourage them in my free time.  I found myself reading a book instead.  I planned to get on the computer in the evenings and work on the church newsletter, but slid into the comfort of watching TV with my dad.  I wanted to have good conversations with people there, and sometimes said what they wanted to hear, instead of sticking to my convictions.

It was good for me to be reminded how hard it can be to stay kingdom minded.  Right now I can sympathize more with sisters who live with unbelieving husbands, people who work all day in a worldly atmosphere, and others in challenging circumstances.

I say all this because I think that being kingdom minded is what this passage in Mark is all about.  Jesus had one way of thinking.  His disciples had another.

The disciples cared about food.  Jesus cared about the “yeast” of the Pharisees and Herod — the effect of false teachings and hypocritical lives.  He knew that Satan was always working, trying to get people away from a pure heart and faith.  Later in the chapter he rebuked Peter, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”  Then he told his disciples, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?

Being kingdom minded means being more concerned about the soul than the body.  It’s realizing what is really important.

The second thing that impresses me about this passage is that Jesus was so confident that God was going to take care of him.  It wasn’t even on his radar to make sure and take along bread.  He wasn’t at all worried  that they only had one loaf.  He had great certainty that God would provide for their needs.

Being kingdom minded really is the conviction that if we seek the kingdom first, we don’t have to worry about our physical needs.  (Matt 6:33)

This was a great thing to be studying while I was in California.  I remembered it when I felt like I was getting a UTI, and instead of freaking out, I just kept on going and trusting in God.  I remembered it when Mom C was about to be sent to the rehab center and we didn’t know what that would be like.  I told her, “God’s taken care of you this far, and he’s going to keep on doing it,” and we went forward.

I remembered it when I got with my friend Ashley.  Now that was a serendipity!  I happened to text her before I came to California, and mentioned that I would be in San Diego.  She responded, “I am there too!” It turned out that she was doing one of her medical school rotations at the children’s hospital there.

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So Ashley and I got together for dinner.   I shared with her about this verse, and how it can give us confidence that God will provide for our futures.  For her, that means that when she graduates, God will lead her to just the right residency and just the right church where she can have great spiritual relationships.  For me, it means that God will lead me to the best way to use my time in the future, something I’ve been praying about a lot.

And here is the best breakthrough I had about how God takes care of us.  My father and I had a very nice time visiting and talking.  One conversation we had was about how he provided child support for me after my parents divorced when I was eight.  He said that the agreement was that instead of paying just a flat monthly amount, he would pay a lower regular amount and then pay for everything I needed — clothes, my flute, my braces, etc.  As I thought about this, I realized that this is how my father has shown his love to me over the years.  He lived in one state and I lived in another, so I saw him twice a year and talked on the phone, but it didn’t feel like he was involved in my life as much.  But he was pouring out his love for me by providing for me.  Realizing that made me feel so warm inside because for all those years I had just taken for granted that my needs had been taken care of.  I hadn’t really seen the love behind it.

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And my greatest insight was seeing that God is the same way.  He loves me like a father, by providing for my needs.  I am feeling more loved by God!

The third thing I see about the passage is that Jesus seriously expects his followers to be kingdom minded.  He totally got onto his disciples for not understanding what he was saying about the yeast of the Pharisees.

That always seemed harsh to me.  But then I remembered what Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? .  .  .  pagans run after those things.”  (Matt 6:25, 31)  That’s a strong statement.  It means that when his disciples had tunnel vision about the bread, they were acting like pagans, like base unbelievers!

What about us?  Do we have tunnel vision too?  Where is it focused?  On our job, achievements, home, security, relationships, leisure pursuits or retirement?  On politics or issues?

This verse came to me last week:  “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold.”  What a scary verse!  It implies that most believers aren’t going to make it to heaven.   For those of us with faith, the bad influences of the world are always working on us.  Satan is using all these things to leech away our faith and convictions.  He doesn’t have to come up with a fancy new weapon to use against us.  He can just rely on the influence of the stuff all around us!

We probably don’t even see it happening.  That’s what is so scary about the story of the disciples and the loaf of bread.  They were oblivious.  Surely that’s why Jesus was sharp with them.

Jesus knows that it is essential for us to continuously fight for our heart, mind and soul!

“There is a battle we have to face every single day.  There are weapons we have to pick up and be ready to defend ourselves with — every single day.  To live in this world and not allow ourselves to be bullied and enticed by a mindset that is not biblical, we have to be seriously engaged, and seriously on our guard.”  (Lisa Chan, “You and Me Together)

And that is what was a little clearer to me when I was in California.  It would have been so easy to give into the comfort and let God drift to the back burner.   I had to really push myself to be even a little kingdom minded.

Yet I am so glad I did, because doing so gave me the greatest rewards.  You know, like the disciples, we think we need the bread of the world.  But what we really need is to look to God, who provides the richest fare — things that are good, satisfying and meaningful.

Here are a few ways God fed my soul.  I woke at 4:30 AM, which was what my body was used to in my time zone, and the Spirit whispered encouraging truths to me as I lay in bed.  I had one of the best visits ever with my parents, with many good one-on-one conversations.  I got with Ashley.  I saw prayers being answered.  I took a walk and discovered God’s beauty.

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After I returned, Mom C wrote on a Facebook, “Kat,your visit with us has been wonderful! I so enjoyed the times that you and I had together, especially the spiritual moments. I think we have created yet another bond.”

Let’s take the leap, a hundred times a day, away from our needs and worries, into God’s arms. He WILL provide.  He will take care of us.  Only HE can be our sufficiency, our source, our answer.

It’s hard.  It’s a battle.  But it is worth it.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Matt. 5:6

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Filed under Battle Against Evil, Faith, Mark