Monday, May 31, 2010

May 31, 2010

Got a great reminder yesterday of the message from Easter service, and developed it a little further on my own. Very cool to see the recurring themes within the Bible.
Let's define the Adam race. All humans are traced back to Adam himself, and Adam made a decision that titled his bloodline as sinners. The label of "sinner" was a problem for me before I understood it. It struck me as a very negative, dirty word that described a self-defeating cycle we are powerless against. A "sinner" was someone anxiously awaiting the opportunity to cheat, steal, manipulate. Hardly the image of God. I refused to see my Carson as fitting under the umbrella of "sinner." What I came to understand changed everything - We aren't sinners because we sin. We sin because we are sinners.
It's not that Carson is a dark child that seeks to do evil. Carson is a child of God, born into a world of satan, that is inevitably going to miss the mark in this life. He will fail, because he is only human. This statement is synonymous with "He will sin, because he is a sinner." failure = sin, human = sinner.
So how does one defeat the sin nature of being in the Adam race? Don't be in Adam. Be in Christ.
Jesus was born to the Adam race. He defeated the Adam race, and became the Christ race by resurrection. He laid down into a grave, and was raised from it. The motion reminds me of a windshield wiper - lays down, then returns upright.
This is completely parallel to baptism. A believer is to lay down into water, and then be risen from it. A believer's baptism is his own resurrection. Put the Adam inheritance to its grave in water, and rise clean in Christ.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

May 27, 2010

I was given a pretty clear reminder this morning to be in the Word more if I want to know God better. Spent the last twenty minutes of prayer time in Acts, reading the letter written to new Gentile believers. It sends a message of baby steps. The letter is short and commands very little of the new believers, as to not throw them headfirst into the deep end. In my past I've tried jumping in to faith - going from very cold to very hot, as to avoid being lukewarm. It gave the same effect as jumping into a cold pool after being in a hot tub - I went into shock. It's too great of a transition to expect it to take place instantly. It's wiser to ease in slowly. Follow what you understand, pray for clarity on issues you don't understand. Trust that God is in control and has wisdom far greater than ours.

Sidenote: What's the greatest thing God's ever done?

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

May 26, 2010

Again, a delay in posting. Again, I'm really struggling with focus. Although it seems like an innocent enough thing to be distracted by, it's really difficult to stop staring at Codie for a full hour and focus on anything else.

So this morning I cheated. The first 15 minutes I stared at Codie to my heart's content, and just thanked God for every little detail. The way He designed my body to ready itself for childbirth, and the way He's provided Codie nutrition and further developed her immune system via breastmilk. The way our noses are placed above our mouths so that we can smell food before consuming - a way to defend ourselves against poisonous produce or food gone bad. The way that these noses protrude from our faces so that, as infants, we don't suffocate when pressed against our mothers' skin to eat. The way newborn vision is so limited, so that while nursing all they can see is mom's face. The way our torsos are arranged, so that we can cradle baby while nursing. The way babies weigh so little, so that even a postpartum mother still in recovery can lift the infant. The way the babies grow so gradually, so that mom can grow her strength at a matching rate so that baby doesn't become too heavy to be held until it is walking age. He's much smarter than me.

After my morning nursing love-fest, God spoke to me via breastpump (TMI?). Zach claims I'm hearing things, but my sister backs me up - the motor in my breastpump speaks. It repeats "let it go" as it performs its suction cycle (creepy, right? Also very appropriate). As a result of my two-week hiatus from prayer, I've become more and more bitter toward people around me lately. I was praying from my hardened heart this morning and just heard (through the Medela motor, of course) "let it go" repeatedly. What a relief it is to sit still for ten minutes, listen to God's reminder to "let it go" and just release the hate.

Couple of tidbits from the past few days: (heard on radio) God does what is good for you, not what is good to you. It is dangerous to pray for your wants (or what you may perceive as needs) and expect fulfillment of these.

It is okay to be in perseverence mode. It is okay to struggle to bring yourself to prayer, and to struggle to stay in prayer. The important part is simply getting there- continuing to strive for glory to God. I'm in perseverence mode, and it's nothing to be ashamed of. It's something to be proud of. The temptation to slack is here, and I'm making efforts to work through it. God is not ashamed of that.

Friday, May 21, 2010

May 21, 2010

Forgive me for the brief hiatus - I was busy birthing new life. Actually, the labor part only took a couple hours on Mother's Day, May 9. Since then, I've just had a really hard time doing anything but staring at my baby. My focus has actually become an issue in my prayer life, and I would love prayer & encouragement over it.
This morning was my first real effort at prayer time since Codie was born, and it was incredibly rewarding. I was praying over certain strongholds and calluses in my heart, and just had this incredible freeing sense of exposure. The visual I had was being in the place of a slide under a microscope with God being the scientist. There's nothing invasive or nerve-wracking about it, though. Just a sense of peace that He's in control.
I was thinking yesterday about parenting methods. There are a few families in our church that have phenomenal children- obviously the product of Kingdom-based parenting. I've asked about their methods before and been directed to a book. I've never actually read the book because the title reminds me of training a dog, and it strikes me as degrading to the child.
I was also very reluctant to read Love & Respect because it struck me as degrading to wives. So I survived in a mediocre, unhealthy relationship for a year. Then I read the book and came to appreciate God's design of marriage, and his plan for Zach & me. Our marriage has been revolutionized.
The point of all this is to show how much I need to abandon the thinking of our society. The society that taught me that women don't need to respect their husbands, and deserve to be leaders over submissive husbands is the same society that can't keep half of its marriages intact. The society that taught me that children need friends instead of parents, and pardons over spankings, is the same society with more behavioral-health issues than any preceding generation (or is it simply more awareness? Touche). Abandon society thinking. There is nothing healthy about becoming more adapted to an ill world. Society is wrong about marriage. Society might be wrong about child-raising. Psychological theories come and go in trends, but the Bible is an unchanging, everlasting standard that has never failed.
Bottom line, I need to read the book.

Friday, May 7, 2010

May 7, 2010

Continuing on the theme of "Who do they say I am?" I've been reading from Matthew (because when I flip through the gospels, it's the one I notice with the most red text, meaning Jesus's direct words). So far I've read about Jesus being baptized. John the Baptist asks him why John should be baptizing Jesus, rather than vice versa. Jesus replies "It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness." He didn't have to - his salvation certainly wasn't riding on it, but chose to do so in order to set an example. There's today's daily bread.
Jesus is the example of spiritual living in a flesh body.
I often hear things about conquering the grave, defying death, etc. These are words that I've heard so often they no longer bear weight (and were always a little over my head anyway). So I'm backing it up to kindergarten level.
Since Eve decided she juuuuuust couldn't help herself (because wouldn't we all accept produce from a talking snake?), mankind has been on a downward spiral of sin. It is now in the genetic nature of our flesh body to entertain darkness. It is the easiest thing in the world to sucuumb to the temptation of the flesh body and disregard God's commandments for pure living. It is the hardest thing in the world to overcome the flesh body and fulfill every one of God's commandments for pure living, without a single falter. It is so hard that only one man has ever accomplished it. In the battle of darkness vs. light, flesh vs. spirit, he is the only man to ever emerge with a 100% success rate. The people I look up to most and consider spiritual leaders probably have a 75% success rate - only a good day. I'm probably running in the 40% range (still good enough for the MLB, might I add). Why in the world would I aspire to the example of someone with a 75% success rate when I have access to the documentation of the only perfect score in history? Respect your pastor, revere your Christ. Jesus is the example of spiritual living in a flesh body.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

May 6, 2010

First and foremost, I know I missed yesterday. And I have enough to write about today that I could do a post for yesterday and lie on the datestamp, but that's supposed to be something I'm improving on. Truthfully, I just woke up at 10:40 and was lazy with my husband and boy. I'm disappointed that I didn't fulfill my promise to the DNI team, but don't feel like it interfered any with my growth with God. I am allowed to pray other hours of the day, too.

Had a vision this morning of a loved one shooting a gun. Someone that's not likely to shoot a gun at all. It was moreso a message to me of aiming for perfection, and the need to be slow and steady while doing so. I learned that the word "sin" is an archery term used to describe only "missing the mark." It doesn't say how far off you were, or that you're a horrible shot for not making a bullseye. Just simply that your shot wasn't right on. This is how I view conviction. To me, it's not a shameful process of being condemned. It's simply an encouraging little guidance that tells me I can do better. Conviction is God's advising on how to aim better for the mark - what could be more loving than that? He does want to see us succeed.

I've been meaning to write about this for weeks, and have yet to actually do it. It tugged on my heart more than ever this morning. I've been guilty of living a Christless Christianity. In Matthew 16:13-17, Jesus asks "Who do they say I am?" I have the standard "right" answers on hand - Messiah, Christ, son of living God, etc. But those words have no depth to me. It's just a programmed response. I'm jaded to the concept of Christ. I relate it sort of to Santa Claus. As a child, you're enthralled by the idea of a mystery man bearing gifts, and love him dearly. The older you get, you can still conjure the vision of St. Nick on a Coke ad, but that nostalgia is gone. You've grown so adjusted to the idea of Santa that it's hard to appreciate him anymore. Now, I know one is a ficticious fat man in a red suit and the other the Sacrificial Lamb for all mankind, it's just a basis for understanding. I've grown so accustomed to what Jesus did that I no longer appreciate it fully.

So this morning I spent some time breaking down what I do understand. I understand that, before Jesus, man had to offer a sacrifice as payment to cover his sin, and therefore, have communication with God. Post-Jesus, we can call on the Lord in any time of need and simply charge it to Jesus's account. I understand that Jesus is the means by which we are allowed to develop intimacy with the Father. John 14 gives record of Jesus promising to send a Helper (the Holy Spirit) that will allow this.

I started to develop more of an understanding of the forgiveness of sin this morning. If Jesus paid the debt of sin (I visualize this as literally paying off the balance of a credit card for me), he therefore is the rightful owner of said sin - just the same as he would rightfully own my car if he paid off my car loan (this is obviously hypothetical. If you know me, you know that I would never take out a car loan). Anyway, that ownership of our sin ties back to what was said in church a few weeks ago that is so liberating.

"We have no right anymore to lay claim to being disqualified. It's covered by the blood of the Lamb. We have no right to lay claim to being disqualified. It's not our stuff. It's one of the reasons why Lord Jesus, on the cross, in the midst of all the intensity, in the pain of not just his death, but the burden of the weight of sin that was on his shoulders at that point, says out loud to the Father, to the world, to the Heavens, "It's finished. It's done." If the Lord Jesus says it's done, there is nobody who can call that back. There is nobody who can disagree with that." - Brock McKay (see 4/18/10 post for more on disqualification)

Jesus paid for our sin, and therefore took ownership of sin to do with what he wish. He wished to free the world from the weight of it. By this logic, I am not permitted to take the weight of my sin, even if I so desire. He's made that decision for me.

"Who do they say I am?" I say he's the means of intimate communication with the Living God, the sender of the Holy Spirit to the earth, and the payee and liberator of my sin account. Who do you say he is?

PS Bit of honesty: Remembering verses is NOT my talent, and I do have to Google keywords to find the Scripture I'm looking for. It's humbling.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

May 4, 2010

Few short bites this morning-

*I used to feel guilty that my prayer hour wasn't spent in a dark closet, rocking back & forth and waiting to hear an audible, booming voice from the Lord. It took me a while to figure out that God has been speaking to me all this time, regardless of whether I'm in a quiet place or changing a diaper. He is not restricted by atmosphere - that's simply an element that affects my focus.
I've felt like it's more respectful to try to spend my prayer time in a quiet place, if possible. The only quiet place in our house is my bedroom. Cozying up in bed without kids does not help me focus on the Lord. It helps me nap. So this morning, as I'm laying on the couch to get to my "still, quiet" place, I'm inevitably getting tired. God spoke so directly to me, telling me to "Just keep moving, just keep moving..." (it was actually to the tune of "Just keep swimming" from Finding Nemo. Apparently God's an Ellen fan, too). So a load of dishes, two loads of laundry, swept and mopped floor later, I focused on my prayer far better than I have in a long time.
He speaks to me, and I hear from Him, in a different way than I expected. He's still speaking, and I'm still hearing - and that's all He's asked for.

*I was praying a thanksgiving for the changes I've seen in Zach. They're nothing short of a miracle to our family. I was trying to explain to God just how exciting it is to see him bearing fruit, and had to stop and realize how much more exciting it is to God to see Zach bear fruit - who do you think planted it there?

*My talents do not lie in the understanding theology area. I can understand the parables that are pretty obvious, but find myself reading through ancient law and genealogy and just failing to understand the relevance of any of it. As a result, I have no opinion on creationism, speaking in tongues, baptism, etc. My talent lies in blind faith - I have no problem with accepting that my brain isn't equipped to understand God's full operations. Full understanding would put me on the same level as God, and that's not a place I'm designed to occupy. I've started to wonder if there is danger in this naive faith, and whether God would rather I thirst for the facts so I can represent Him more fully. Jury's still out on this one.

Monday, May 3, 2010

April 25, 2010

I updated a few weeks ago on the topic of temptation, and the freedom from sin I feel. Although I closed by discussed personal responsibility in reaction to temptation, I don't think I did a good enough job emphasizing this. It was presented brilliantly in church this morning. I, of course, didn't take coherent notes and therefore will try to piece together something logical here and edit when the sermon audio is available online.

The heart is the most fertile place on earth. What seeds fall into the heart will manifest there - be it good seed or bad. Although I don't believe I am responsible for the temptation that presents itself to me, I am responsible for whether I entertain this temptation. Matthew 5:27-30 (the "I tell you that anyone wo looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" verses) makes it pretty clear that entertaining the idea of sin is introducing the sin to yourself. As that idea takes seed in your fertile heart, it is bound to grow like wildfire. Why is it that weeds are so hard to kill and blooms are so hard to keep alive? The important message from this morning is that sin is more than the moment of relapse - it is more than the instant gratification and then repentance that sometimes follows. Sin is allowing the darkness of the enemy to take root in your heart and spread. Guard your heart. Protect it and weed it and fertilize it so it can be pure.

May 3, 2010

For those that don't know, I'm 39 weeks pregnant and taking two online courses. Next week I'll be having a baby - during finals week. So Saturday I emailed an instructor asking how he felt about letting me take his final a few days early, since it doesn't officially open until the same day I may be getting induced. I logged back on to the online system this morning to find that he'd written back Saturday that yes, he'll open the final early for me, it needs to be done Monday evening.
It's Monday morning.
I still have two chapters to complete, at three hours a piece, for that class before I'm ready to start studying for the final.

Talk about a pleasant way to start a Monday morning.

So why in the world am I not working on those right now?
Because God never told me to be a straight-A student. God never told me to be a student at all.
God did tell me to start a blog, and to publish the things I learn from Him. I slack on this duty - a lot. I'm guilty of only updating once a week, and then changing the date stamps to look like I've updated daily. I'm guilty of putting Facebook, housework, homework, phone calls, even naps before Daily Bread. It seems silly to put a blog on God-status, but it is one of the few things in my life God has called directly upon me to do.

So here's today's Daily Bread, courtesy of a church brother named Paul Miller: "Stop and listen, you who busy yourselves with endless tasks. As Martha did, are you doing things your Father hasn't even asked for? Are you seeking to attain His love through works? Are you consumed with desire to be recognized and praised by the people around you rather than the one true God? Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world and the patterns of a religious system. But be transformed by the renewing of your minds."

No excuses. No distractions. Just obedience.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May 1, 2010 - Submission

This is, by far, the most important concept I have ever understood, and I hope I do it justice in the way I present it here.

In both my relationship with God and in my marriage, I believe in submission. Nothing is more important in my life than understanding the importance of obedience. I am not number one in my life, or in any aspect of the world.
This starts with the Creator. Proverbs 3:5-6 makes it pretty clear that we don't have to understand God's plan, we just have to agree to trust Him. This often contradicts my earthly will - particularly in my daily prayer hour. Boredom and household duties often tempt me to spend time away from prayer. I got a great email this week from my friend Lizzie, offering encouragement in dedicating to prayer time. "I was given a word by my husband this week to press through being obedient to prayer if I don't feel like it, just like how we would brush our teeth or shower when we don't feel like it. The Lord revealed to me how dedicated and thorough I am in my brushing my teeth, but how quick I can be to slack off in prayer."

Our God is a beyond sufficient provider, and will not leave us in need. All He asks of us is an obedience to Him in return. We don't have to agree with His will. We just have to submit to it.

Submission is an intimidating word because of the social stigma in our post-sexual revolution culture. We dare not give up our personal freedoms to compromise to anyone - the generation before mine burned many bras and marched many miles to free me from submission. No offense to the feminist movement, but to me, submission is nothing to hide from. To me, submission is the manifestation of trust. That's the most important part, so let's repeat. Submission is the manifestation of trust. There is nothing compromising or oppressive about the intimacy of a trusting relationship. There is only love and security there.

From 2/26 in my journal: Within my marriage, let me embody respect for my husband and his calling to lead our family. Let me know that submission is not a form of oppression, but a showing of trust in the plans Zach has for us. The more I show him this respect, the more his heart will desire to love me to my deepest needs. When I fail to submit to my husband, I am showing him that I don't respect him or trust him as a leader. There are times that Zach is wrong, but it is not my responsibility to place blame or take authority. I pray for him earnestly, follow him faithfully, and let him recognize the mistake in his own time. He is a good-willed leader that wants the best for our family, and I trust he will make that happen. I have never had a prayer for Zach's heart that wasn't answered in a matter of days.

I think this is what it means to love someone else more than you love yourself. I have so much trust in Zach that I would rather see his needs met first, and know that he'll take care of mine in return. A year ago, we couldn't stop arguing because I was so afraid that if I gave in, he'd walk all over me. I honestly thought I needed to drive my point into his brain or he wouldn't get it.
Zach's a more intelligent man than this. He knows me, and knows my priorities and interests. Since I've stopped the nagging, he's actually been more responsive to my wants. We realized today it's been a long time since we've had a real argument. We still get snappy with each other, and then we improve our moods and apologize. There's no tension in our home anymore. We're living with joy in our marriage, and no longer just surviving the days in it. I've never found him more attractive.

I read the Five Love Languages book by Dr. Gary Chapman before understanding the submission concept. It gives its reader the opportunity to understand both his own and his spouse's "love language" - the way they prefer to show and receive love. The five love languages are: Quality Time, Acts of Service, Words of Confirmation, Physical Touch and Gifts. Zach's is acts of service. Mine is physical touch. Nothing is more cozy to me than cuddling on the couch and watching a movie. Nothing is more comforting than being hugged when I'm upset. Before the submission concept revolutionized our marriage, I came to understand that I would feel more loved if Zach would spend more time with me in physical touch. I made efforts to meet his needs for acts of service, and just could not understand what kind of heartless husband would refuse to meet his wife halfway. I used to count the days since I last received the touch I desired, and would hold the count against Zach as a proof of spousal neglect. We had many, many fights over this and I shed many, many tears over it.
I realized a few days ago it's been weeks, if not at least a month, since I've received the cuddle time I would consider sufficient for my physical touch needs. And yet, I've never felt more loved. Although my love language is not gifts, I feel so loved when Zach brings me home a Dr. Pepper because he had to stop at the gas station and knows how much I love fountain drinks. My love language isn't acts of service, but I know he loves me when he does the dishes because I've been complaining about my back hurting. My love language isn't quality time, but I feel so treasured when he gets a babysitter for Carson so he can take me to a baseball game and relax together. I mean no disrespect toward Dr. Chapman's ideas, I'm sure they've been a blessing to other marriages. In my marriage, however, I didn't need any help identifying how I wanted to be loved. I needed help identifying how he already loves me.

Read "Love & Respect" by Dr. Emerson Eggerichs. Before opening the book, spend some time in prayer and ask God to help quiet the selfish cultural voice in each of us. Ask Him for revelation in His design of our psychology and how we interact as a result. Mostly, ask Him for help in planting the seed of submission, and that it bloom something beautiful for you.