500 Years

It’s been 500 years since Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the door of the church in Wittenburg, Germany. Luther95theses-808

As a girl in Minnesota I grew up going to a Lutheran church, of course.  If you live here, chances are that you’re Lutheran and you go to potlucks. 😉

What is sad and ironic is that my church was very dry and I came away with a sense that if I followed certain rules I was accepted by God.  Ironic because that was the very thing Luther was revolting against.  I was given a Bible after I went through confirmation which I kept on my bedside table at all times and occasionally attempted to read.  I remember trying to slog my way through Leviticus before I gave up.

Of course a system of rules just isn’t very compelling especially as you grow up and your world view gets very much expanded.

When I did come back to God and was filled with the Holy Spirit, the Bible came to life for me.  I read through the New Testament for the first time and was blown away.  This wasn’t dry or boring at all.  It was alive and exciting.

To me, the reformation freed the common believer to experience God firsthand.  It gave the people access to the previously inaccessible- the Word of God in the common language.  It seems shocking to us but 500 years ago the church didn’t want the Bible translated into the common tongue.  They actually rounded up all the copies they could find and burned them.  I guess they wanted to be the people’s only access to God and salvation.

“But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”  1 Peter 2:9

There aren’t certain believers that are elevated above the rest.   “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism…”  Acts 10:34  Titles and positions are bestowed by people, not God.

Any believer, anywhere can go directly into God’s presence through our High Priest, Jesus Christ.  “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God…Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:14-16

This verse is saying that we all have Jesus as our perfect priest, and therefore we can commune directly with God.  We don’t have to go to “middle men” or settle for some kind of second hand experience.

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9  It doesn’t say if we confess and then jump through a bunch of hoops to earn what God has already freely given through his shed blood on the cross….

The Bible says that we are heirs of God and Co-Heirs with Christ.  Romans 8:17  Jesus was a priest, and if we are filled with his spirit, we are a part of a royal priesthood.  It’s our spiritual inheritance and it comes from God himself.

I think it is human nature to elevate the spiritual superstars of our times.  I remember doing just that with my favorite Bible teacher.  I could tell she was an amazing godly woman and such a talented writer.  I didn’t think I could ever live up to that so I read all her books and blogs and put her up on a pedestal.  I can just see God shaking his head and saying; “child, don’t you realize I love you every bit as much as I love her?”

There aren’t any rules we can follow to make God love us more than he already does.

He doesn’t want great things from us or even steadfast obedience so much as he wants our hearts.  He wants us to know him and love him the way he knows and loves us.  Consider the prayer Jesus prayed for us before he was crucified; My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message,  that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” John 17:21-22

There are many traditions and denominations in the church but none of us are saved through church membership.  We aren’t saved by communion.  We aren’t even saved by baptism.

“For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God….” Ephesians 2:8

My fear is that so many people are missing it.  They may warm a pew occasionally but they have no real, living relationship with their Savior.  Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’  Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:23

Martin Luther was not a perfect man, not at all.  But God doesn’t use perfect people.  The reformation was an important step into bringing us common, everyday people into the very presence of God and obtaining the gift of salvation, unencumbered by extra-biblical traditions and rules.

 

Advertisements

The True “Message”

Waves of dismay and perhaps indignation swept through the evangelical community yesterday.  Eugene Peterson, a Presbyterian pastor and author of “The Message”, came out in support of gay marriage.

Coincidentally, I was just reading up on Jen Hatmaker and the fallout after she “came out” with similar views.

I really want to handle the subject with compassion.  It isn’t just a matter of theology or lifestyle choices.  This is incredibly important but potentially polarizing.

First, a little about my background- I’m a minnesotan girl so I grew up in the land of Lutheran churches and potlucks in church basements (you betcha!).  My parents also would occasionally bring us to conferences in “the cities” where we were exposed to a weird, amped up form of charismatic Christianity (I remember seeing people rolling around and barking).

As a young adult coming into my own faith I was very drawn towards a toned down version of charismatic evangelicalism.  I identified as a Pentecostal and my husband and I have attended various Assembly of God congregations over the years.  I personally like strong, biblical teaching with an emphasis on allowing the Holy Spirit to move and direct the service.

I view the Bible as the absolute authority.  It’s the plumb line of truth.  I believe the Word is living and active and that it holds the very essence of God himself.  “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The Word is inextricably connected to Jesus, who in himself contains the fullness of deity (Col. 2:9).  All scripture is divinely inspired, “God-breathed” (2 Tim. 2:16).

You can not separate Biblical Christianity from the Word of God; the Bible.

“But Sierra, there are different interpretations…”  Yes, there are.  Some verses and passages are difficult to understand.  But there are other topics that are incredibly clear.  One being Gods stance on sexual sin.

“Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men….” 1 Cor. 6:9

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” 1 Timothy 4:1

I do believe we are living in the last days.  Popular, mainstream Bible teachers are beginning to turn away from the plain truth of scripture and embrace the Worlds stance.  Mr. Peterson even adapted the Bible for modern ears, conveniently rewording passages and dropping mentions of the sinfulness of a gay lifestyle.

Do I claim to understand everything in the Word of God?  Of course not.  There are things I don’t understand.  Things I’m still wrestling through.  But if I disagree, if I am offended by the Word- I’m the one in error.  The Word is eternal.  The Word will endure when everything else turns to dust.

Heaven help me if I use my (admittedly, much smaller) platform to teach contrary to the Word of God.

“Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”  James 3:1

I’m not hardened to the plight of those who want to follow God who also feel same-sex attraction.  All I can say is that we are called to be living sacrifices as we follow Christ.  Our whole beings, including our sexuality- is to be consecrated to God.  Each believer has to work that out, between themselves and their Creator.

I think the church should be welcoming to those from the LGBT community without losing ahold of the truth of God.  We can be compassionate but, like Jesus, full of grace and truth.

Otherwise, if we are start discarding scripture that doesn’t fit with our world view… where will we end up?  And who are we to argue with God?  Who are we to say that our vision of human sexuality is better, more evolved, than his?  “You turn things upside down, as if the potter were thought to be like the clay! Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, “You did not make me”? Can the pot say to the potter, “You know nothing”?  Isaiah 29:6

We need to tell people the truth, or we could be “compassionately” losing hold of the Gospel, the very power of God unto salvation… in our effort to make the faith more palatable to a lost and dying world.  A gospel that doesn’t save isn’t the gospel at all.

The power of the Gospel drives life change.  The presence of God demands holiness.  “Be holy, because I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16  We are either embracing the work of God, submitting to the death of our own sin nature, or we are not.  We can’t get to the resurrection without going through the cross.

Are people born gay?  I have no idea.  What I do know is that we are all afflicted in various ways because of the curse.  Romans 8 describes how all creation was subjected to this curse.  We all carry this death in our beings.  We are all warped and hopelessly broken. We all wait for the children of God to be revealed, when everything that is currently wrong will be made right.  In the mean time we have to rise above because- “we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.” Romans 8:12

How that looks for each of us is going to be different. My temptations and struggles are unique to me.  There are things I’m working out with God.  Parts of my flesh that don’t need to be rehabbed, they need to be crucified.  Just like every single person that would accept the message and chose to carry their cross.

In closing I want to specify that we can all do this thing because “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” Hebrew 4:15 Jesus is compassionate to the struggles we face.  He does not judge the sin of homosexual acts harsher than any other sin.  He loves the LGBT crowd just as much as the potluck crowd.  There is hope for the gossip, healing for the addict, courage for the coward.

The transformative power of the Gospel is for all.  “All those the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away.” John 6:37

As the Church, we need to be kind, loving, compassionate while holding onto the truth revealed in the Word of God.  We also need to be aware that the climate of culture is becoming such that we need to be willing to be firm in the face of being labeled as homophobic, bigoted, hateful, etc., in fact we should expect that.  We need to know where we stand, even if that means enduring persecution.

 

 

 

No One Likes to be Judged

In this age of social media we are able, more than ever, to loudly and proudly proclaim our views- without helpful context or non-verbal communication.  It’s definitely contributing to people feeling misunderstood, irritated, and angry.

I saw something someone had posted recently that really touched a sore spot for me.  It was in no way directed at me (as far as I know!) but it still felt like I was being judged.  The post made sweeping generalizations about todays crop of kids with diagnoses (read-on the autism spectrum) that they mainly suffered from bad parenting.  Ouch.  Way to judge and dismiss a generation of parents that are doing their best to cope and struggling.  judge

It felt painful.  It made me angry.  It made me sad.  It is so easy to judge.  A lot harder to care and extend a helping hand.

I realize I felt the way I did because I do feel really insecure in this area.  My oldest child is very high-functioning but he has some pretty major behavioral issues.  It isn’t his fault.  It isn’t our fault.  It is just the way his brain is wired.  He probably would have been a very strong willed child regardless, but the autism takes it to a whole new level.  It is definitely a daily struggle.  We have never been permissive or negligent parents in any way, but it would be easy to surmise that we were from a small ‘snapshot’ of his behavior.

For parents that are already giving their all and worrying it isn’t enough- certainly the judgement of people who really don’t have a clue is not particularly helpful.

I wonder if people outside the ‘cookie-cutter’ church going type feel the same.  If they feel judged and dismissed when what they desperately need is some grace.

Jesus came full of truth and grace. John 1:14  God knows we need both.  Grace bridges the gap and truth sets us free.

So the next time we see a glaring (to us) sin or shortcoming let us pray for grace to see the human being behind it.  Maybe some empathy for their hurts, pains, and disappointments that have maybe gotten them tangled up in a mess they can’t get out of.  Grace.  Cause no one likes to be judged.

“For I did not come to judge the world, but to save the world.” John 12:47

New (Fall) Leaf

I haven’t blogged in forever….  I have been busy.  But more than that I haven’t really had anything all that great to say!

wpid-20150909_190313.jpgHonestly, I really dread summer.  The hot weather, the kid craziness, lack of structure just wears me out.  My boys went back to school on Tuesday.  Two words: thank. goodness.  There has been peace and quiet in my house along with a wonderful, mellow autumn breeze.  I feel so refreshed.  Quiet, calm time is medicine to my soul.

I am starting a new mini-venture next week; teaching the rainbows (little kids) wednesday night class at church.

We had a beach grill out to kick of children’s ministry.  It was such a gorgeous night.  Just beautiful and majestic with thunder and lightning on the horizon.  wpid-20150909_190232.jpg

Like the seasons changing I feel God’s love breaking through here and there.  I got pretty depressed for much of the summer.  I’ve been struggling with feeling angry and hopeless with my son’s eczema.  We have tried everything and anything to try to help him and it just keeps getting worse and spreading.  Sometimes I feel like God has led me ‘where I don’t want to go’. John 21:18  Sometimes God does lead us through things that we never would have asked for.  He doesn’t clean us off in a cosmic tub he refines us in fire.

I’ve gotten angry and have not been on speaking terms at times.  True.  But I also feel like Peter when he said, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.” John 6:68

I understand going through pain that never seems to end while Heaven seems deaf to your prayers.  But God accomplishes something in us that can only happen through enduring through trials.  Let’s be honest; we would all be pretty shallow in our faith if we had zero problems or struggles.  But God wants strong christians with rich, deep faith and compassionate hearts.

wpid-20150909_190203.jpgHe is good.  He is good.  He is good.

“I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living.” Psalm 27:13

All who keep on trusting will see his goodness.

“Weeping may last through the night, but joy comes with the morning.” Psalm 30:5

Queen Esther’s Beauty Elixir

Esther was a beautiful young woman chosen to be the Queen in the book of Esther.  The Bible actually records her ‘beauty secret’… “Before a young woman’s turn came to go in to King Xerxes, she had to complete twelve months of beauty treatments prescribed for the women, six months with oil of myrrh and six with perfumes and cosmetics.” Esther 2:12

myrrhMyrrh oil comes from the Commiphora myrrh tree in the horn of Africa and the Middle East.  It has literally been used for thousands of years to treat skin and oral problems.  Interestingly, myrrh is mentioned some 156 times in the Bible!

I definitely do not naturally have great skin.  I got my dad’s oily skin and large pores.  But I have gotten many compliments on my skin since I started using myrrh oil.

Myrrh is a powerful antioxidant and works with your body to repair damage, smooth fine lines, minimize age spots, and aid in cell renewal to get glowing skin.  There is even evidence that myrrh has strong anti-cancer properties.

I buy Now brands myrrh oil.  It is very reasonably prized and seems to stand up to more expensive brands I have tried.  The oil is very thick and will get ‘gunky’ if not diluted.  I recommend diluting in a larger bottle with a carrier oil.  Excellent carrier oils are carrot seed oil, castor oil, jojoba oil, fractionated coconut oil, or even extra virgin coconut oil.  I personally dilute it 50-50.  Myrrh is fairly gentle so you can use it at a stronger dilution.  You should only need a small, like pea sized, amount.  I apply it every night after I wash off my makeup. dreamstime_m_16597331

Your skin might break out initially as you get used to the carrier oil and possibly as toxins are ejected from your skin.  If you keep breaking out you may want to experiment with other carrier oils.  There are many good options out there.  You could even simply add you myrrh oil to your favorite natural lotion.

Myrrh has a tenacious smell, definitely an acquired taste.  I don’t mind it but you might if you have a sensitive nose.  You can also mix in more pleasing smelling oils (with their own healing properties!) such as lavender, rose, or geranium.

I love rose and have found it to be very effective as well.  Lavender is excellent as a quick remedy to soothe burns or diaper rash.  Geranium is much less expensive than rose oil but with a very similar chemical makeup and very similar properties (and aroma). 8080794_xl You also could replicate the nativity gift of gold, frankincense and myrrh with the essential oils of myrrh and frankincense along with a golden hued carrier oil.

Along with being 100% natural and time-tested (basically since recorded history!) you will save money over buying over priced creams which are also chock-full of harmful, unnatural ingredients.  Your body and skin will thank you!

The Jar and Jug

In the story of the widow and Elijah in 1 Kings 17, you see the great lengths God will go, to reveal himself to those he loves.

Ahab was king of Israel, and had the distinction of being the most wicked.

God raised up the prophet Elijah and used a severe 3 year famine to get everyone’s attention.

But while God was working in the big picture he also was interested in revealing himself to one widow.  This story shows God’s heart so clearly.  He isn’t ‘far away and impersonal’.  He cares about the cast-offs in society.  He sees every person.  This woman was a widow and apparently not even an Israelite. (Luke 4:26)  Just like the Samaritan women at the well.  Similar to Mary Magdalene.  God loves women.  God cares about even (especially) the societal outcasts.

Elijah was being supernaturally fed by ravens at a brook.  But God allowed the brook to dry up because he was sending Elijah to a widow who had lost hope.

Elijah found the women who had quite literally come to the end of herself; “As surely as the Lord your God lives,” she replied, “I don’t have any bread—only a handful of flour in a jar and a little olive oil in a jug. I am gathering a few sticks to take home and make a meal for myself and my son, that we may eat it—and die.” 1 Kings 17:12

Elijah responded, “Don’t be afraid. Go home and do as you have said. But first make a small loaf of bread for me from what you have and bring it to me, and then make something for yourself and your son.  For this is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘The jar of flour will not be used up and the jug of oil will not run dry until the day the Lord sends rain on the land.’” 17:13-14

She must have been hungry and skeptical but she had enough faith to do as he said.  God did come through.  The jar and jug didn’t run out, day after day.

The story wasn’t over though.  Shortly after, her one son; all she had in life, got very sick and died.  They had just been snatched from the hand of death.  She said to Elijah, “What do you have against me, man of God? Did you come to remind me of my sin and kill my son?” 17:18

That wasn’t what God had in mind though.  The story wasn’t over.

Elijah took the boy “and laid him on his bed.  Then he cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, have you brought tragedy even on this widow I am staying with, by causing her son to die?”  Then he stretched himself out on the boy three times and cried out to the Lord, “Lord my God, let this boy’s life return to him!”

 The Lord heard Elijah’s cry, and the boy’s life returned to him, and he lived.  Elijah picked up the child and carried him down from the room into the house. He gave him to his mother and said, “Look, your son is alive!” 17:19-23

We see why God sovereignly allowed this all to happen in the widow’s response.

“Now I know that you are a man of God and that the word of the Lord from your mouth is the truth.” 17:24

God allowed the worst possible scenario (and resulting miracle) to happen in this woman’s life so that she would be able to know the truth.

This echo’s the story of Lazarus in John 11.  Jesus loved Lazarus and his sisters, Mary and Martha.  But he allowed Larazus to die so that they could all see the power of God.  “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.”  John 11:4

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.  But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.”  Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”  Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;  and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

 “Yes, Lord,” she replied, “I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who is to come into the world.”

Jesus is the resurrection and the life.  Whether we get a miracle in this life or the next.

Jesus saw their grief and felt it.  “Jesus wept.” John 11:35  The shortest verse in the Bible.

Jesus is our High Priest who feels our pain.  He understand our fears.  He loves us.  He went to the tomb.  He got his feet dirty.  At his command, the dead man was raised. emptytombgraveclothes

Ultimately we will all experience this miracle resurrection.  The trumpet will sound.  Death will be swallowed up in victory. 1 Cor. 15:5

God goes to great lengths to reveal himself to those he loves.  Sometimes that includes hopeless situations.  If God is God of your life the hopeless is allowed (temporarily) for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it…. so that you may believe.

Lord Jesus, help us to be strong men and women of Faith.  Help us to grow through the good and the bad.  Use our lives to spread the pleasing aroma of Christ in this dark world, no matter what.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Buzzkill

20150424_102558

I saw this at my local Starbucks.  Who wants to know that 3-4 bites of a decadent brownie has nearly 400 calories?  I was shocked because it wasn’t very big either.  Back in the day I would have happily eaten this, along with a mocha, and called it ‘lunch’.  I can’t eat stuff like this anymore unless I want to feel awful for the rest of the day.

It got me thinking though of how we all have our little vices and temptations.  Brownies, overspending, t.v., whatever.  It is simply human nature to want to indulge without carefully considering the cost.

I’ve had so many people say to me, “You’re skinny now but just wait till you hit age (insert random age here) you’ll instantly gain (insert weight gain here).  I used to be thin too and then I hit that magic age and this weight suddenly appeared.”  Followed with a knowing nod.  What?  I totally agree staying fit and at your ‘fighting’ weight gets harder with age.  I’ve especially noticed after my 3rd child my body wanted to stay 10 pounds heavier than it used to be.  But you can stay fit and healthy, regardless of age, with a little work… if you are willing.

I’m not going to just throw in the towel and settle down with chips and ice cream though.  Well, ok I have been lately.  You know how it goes- a treat turns into a daily thing.  Before you know it you have replaced hard-won healthy habits with not so healthy habits.

I don’t personally struggle with motivation to work out.  I love working out, I really do.  But I also love Mexican food.  And chocolate ice cream.  And popcorn…you get the drift.  😉  And I realize I’m at an age where I can’t eat that stuff all the time without gaining weight and feeling awful.  Buzzkill.

I had made a lot of progress and gotten to my goal size.  Then I slowly (ahem quickly) stopped logging my calories with fitness pal and lost my progress I had made.  I had been avoiding the scale and in a bit of denial.

A couple days ago I forced myself onto it and yep, I had regained the weight.  It was actually a bit freeing to just face it.  I am back to tracking my carbs and calories and armed with motivation, I know I will succeed.

I think it is human nature to over-indulge and then actively stay in denial.  Huge debt usually doesn’t just ‘happen to you’.  Failed marriages don’t just happen.  Ruined reputations usually don’t just happen.  Granted, there are exceptions.  But usually we ruin our own lives and sabotage our own goals with a lack of self-control and the elaborate self-deception that keeps us heading the wrong direction and head simultaneously in the sand.

“Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.” Proverbs 25:28

Living a life of balance and exercising self-control (the only fruit of the spirit involving ‘self’) can protect us from so much unnecessary heartbreak and so many problems.

Our flesh balks at discipline.  Every day I face the internal struggle of ‘I want chips or sweets or whatever food I shouldn’t be eating’ usually paired with ‘I deserve it because of this or that’…but then I remember I am going to have to enter that into my food diary.  Buzzkill.  I previously solved that problem by eating said food and then just not entering it in!  And before I knew it my jeans were suddenly shrinking again.

I realize my food intake and weight aren’t super-important in the long run.  But you know we lose or win the war in the daily little battles.  I want to live a life guarded against the destructive schemes of the enemy by daily practicing the discipline of self-control.

Paul said, “Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” 1 Cor. 9:25-27

Self-control is difficult in the short run, true- but it yields such incredible rewards.  Let’s embrace it’s daily discipline today and enjoy its fruits tomorrow.