Monday, April 29

is being set apart, and being a living testimony the same thing?

Okay, forgive me, but there may be some long-winded rambling happening here - as I am "talking out loud" and processing the ton of thoughts going through my mind lately.  Old thoughts.  New thoughts.  Ever present reality thoughts.  Sometimes, like lately, I have not been able to get away from them!  They occupy my waking moments, and often my nighttime ones as well.  They are thoughts about being "set apart" for Jesus Christ. 

I grew up (first 20 years of my life) in a Brethren (Plymouth Brethren) chapel - Arlington Street Gospel Chapel.  At the time, I remember my dad telling me a story about one of the elders, who held a fairly important job with the city.  My dad told me that Mr. G often went to dinners where there was drinking happening, but Mr. G, being a Christ-follower, did not drink, and he would not even stand with a glass of water in his hand, in case someone did think it was a drink of some kind.  That impacted me as a young girl.  I remember telling someone who said that was stupid, and that we can't be responsible for others.  Hmmm....  in the bible, there is scripture in Matthew.  Oh, and it is also in Mark ... and wait a moment - it is in Luke too.  The same words - three times?  Must be important!  Here they are:

Matthew 18:6

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
“But what if someone leads one of these little ones who believe in me to sin? If he does, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and be drowned at the bottom of the sea.

Mark 9:42

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
42 “What if someone leads one of these little ones who believe in me to sin? If he does, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck.

Luke 17:2

New International Reader's Version (NIRV)
Suppose people lead one of these little ones to sin. It would be better for those people to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck.

The person I had the conversation with, many years ago, the one who thought and said that we can not be held responsible for another person's actions ... and that if someone stumbles, that is their sin, not ours.  Well ... I guess she interpreted it differently than I do.  If the Bible is the inspired WORD of God, which I believe it is - then it is ACTIVE and LIVING and pertains to today as well, and the way I see it ~ we ARE responsible to not cause someone to stumble.  I think that is the bottom line.  "Having a millstone tied to a neck and being thrown into the sea ... that is pretty severe."  Yep ... pretty severe, but then again - why would we want to cause someone to stumble especially if the Word warns against it.

You see, going back to my roots in the Brethren church, I was taught something then, in my childhood - which I still believe is relevant to today.  We as believers have to be "set apart".  There has to be something different about a Christ follower.  I think it is NOT what we say, so much as how we live.  
And in how we live - I think that the person I am in my quiet days at home MUST be the same person that you meet in Sobeys, or the same person that you see in the pew on a Sunday morning.  And, being that I am in ministry, I believe I am called to a higher standard, as people are watching.  Not everyone believes in transparency however, and I think  it must get hard deciding who sees what and when.  I also know from experience, when I was in pastoral ministry, that people WANT to see authenticity and transparency in leaders!
Yes, it makes leaders vulnerable at times, but it also makes you real.

Sometimes it is hard not to be judgmental, I realize that. And I am sorry for those times when someone has felt judged.  I am also sorry for those times when I know I judged someone.  I guess somehow, my being raised to think that believers need to be set apart, does cause some issues at times!

I realize that being set apart is not a hot topic these days.  Remember I also grew up in the times where things were either black or white.  Now things have gotten quite grey (so to speak) and personally I think that we have "dumbed down" christianity to make it appealing.  Truth is - Jesus is the one that is the appeal of christianity, and following Him is not for the weak kneed because truth is - being a christian IS OFTEN HARD!! But oh, how worth it is - being in relationship with the ONE who is the giver of life, the redeemer, the one who covered our sin with his blood on the cross! AND the one who gives us life!!

I guess, the thing is - He died for our sin - whether we live a life set apart or not - we can still have forgiveness through grace!!  (Thank you Lord).  
I just think that living a life that is at least somewhat different - somewhat set apart - is just less confusing for those who are watching.  Oh, that reminds me though ... like my friend said years ago ... "we can't be held responsible for others."   Hmmmmm ..... or can we?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I have just had the joy (about a month ago) of being introduced to a young woman, who has quickly become a friend, and I truly think she is a gift from God to me!  I have had the joy of listening to her, and talking with her, and also praying for and with her.  It is refreshing to spend time with her, as she is a new believer, and my goodness - she is wanting to follow Jesus with ALL her heart.  I see how she, without anyone telling her (although she does has some great mentors in her life) , has chosen what she has to walk away from, in order to be more like Christ.  I see how she, NOT being raised in a Christian home, is wanting to be more like Jesus in all she does.  (Sometimes I think when we are raised in Christian homes, we become complacent and make our own rules to justify our means!) 

I have, with great joy ~ seen how she feels that being a Christ follower means that she is "set apart" and that the old life has to be left behind, as it was not life giving, in the true sense of the word LIFE!!  Of course - she is not using those words ... but I see, how deliberate she is - in choosing how to walk, to be more like Jesus.  She gets it.  So why do we (those who perhaps have walked the christian walk for a while) struggle with it, and make all kinds of excuses for the lives (and often the lies) that we sometimes live.  O Lord, please help us to not be causing someone to stumble - especially someone who is yet to know you, or someone who is has just fallen in love with you Lord.  

She has taught me alot about following Jesus in all that we do - actions, lifestyle, words, thoughts, habits ...  and I am so thankful! She has also made me very aware of how I need to be a living testimony of you Jesus!!  She has never heard the old story about the elder ... she has likely never ever read those verses yet ... but she knows that following you Jesus - makes her life different.  And I stand in awe of what you O Lord,  are doing - and are going to do through her - because she is willing to live with you in charge of her life!!  Thank you Lord!!

O Lord, may I take my own post to heart - and live for you - no matter what - no matter where - no matter when!  To let you shine through my eyes, and to be seen through me.  That is a huge thing - but Lord, I really want to be more like you.  MORE LIKE YOU JESUS!!

Wednesday, April 17


over the course of the morning
i   snuggled one grandson while he drank his milk 
and played  pretend downstairs
imagining all kinds of things
building a mini mall
going to the zoo
talking with a lion
making coffee
doing construction work
and all the time marvelling
at imagination that is  within this grandchild of mine

and wondering
when do we as adults
loose that sense of wonder
that sense of imagination
or is it just there
waiting to come out
at the first chance

what if
imagining when
imagining where
imagining who

that  couple hours spent
in wonder and imagination
made me feel  relaxed
and renewed
but then again
perhaps it was just sitting and cuddling and hugging
and talking and playing and imagining
with my grand babies
who show me that life
and each moment

thankful for this day's lesson
who would have thought
that this old granny could  learn something from someone so little!!

Sunday, April 14

what does a nightmare, today's sermon, and a parenting class have in common?

Part ONE:
Yesterday, before I went to bed, I put my thoughts on paper.
They were mostly thoughts of confession.
Of honest and deep cry out to the Lord about things in my life, that continued to rear up from time to time.
thoughts recording a cry to the Lord, to forgive me for unconfessed sin in my life
thoughts asking him why I continue to revert to old patterns, or old nature
I went to bed with the Lord in my thoughts.  And with forgiveness

Part TWO:
Last night I had a dream.  
It was actually more like a nightmare, cause it made me a little frightened.
I thought I would remember it, but I am only remembering part of it.
In my dream, I was at the home of family (not that I saw faces of my family, but I felt like it was family, if that makes any sense) or perhaps it was my house, and family was over.
We were sleeping.  
When we woke up - in the room we were sleeping in, there was a huge tree/branch that had been tossed in, and was leaning up against the head of one of the beds.
We were shocked, and could not figure out where this massive thing came from. 
It was actually very beautiful - deep deep brown, and almost shiny brown as if it was varnished.
But the reality set in, that someone had thrown this at us, and the pure size and weight of it - could have really hurt someone if it had landed on them.
The thing is - we could not figure out who threw it at us while we slept as the door was locked on the inside.

This reality was unnerving to say the least.
How did someone get in with the door being locked.
How did someone throw it at us while we slept without anyone hearing/seeing/knowing
How did the person get up.

As we looked at this big tree - or branch, in spite of the fact that it being thrown at us could have wounded or killed us if we had been hit with it, it actually looked  beautiful, with many branches going off it - it was intriguingly beautiful in fact. 

Today in church - Delbert preached on “the Promise of God” as part of our series on the Holy Spirit.  His text was John 14 - one of my favorites.  You know the part (or if you don’t find a bible and read it for yourself)  The part where Jesus is telling his disciples that he will be leaving them, and they are  - well for lack of a better word - just totally confused at what he is saying.  Jesus tells them “believe in God - believe also in Me.”
“I am the way, the truth and the life ...”  When Philip was wanting “proof” Jesus told him - “the Father is in me!”    I wonder if Jesus wanted to take Philip (and the rest of them, and well, even me) by the shoulders and gently shake us and say - “Watch what I do!!!”
But Jesus - well, what can I say.  He is the great I AM - and never seemed to get exasperated with them (and thank you Lord you don’t get fed up with me!) but he goes on to tell them - that He is going to help them through this, and He will send them another helper - the promised Holy Spirit - their helper - their advocate!!  
Jesus said to them “IF YOU LOVE ME, OBEY MY COMMANDMENTS ...”
Ah, it is all about love.
HIS love for them.  His love for me.  His love for us.
And then, Jesus says - “...when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative - that is, the Holy Spirit - he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.  I am leaving you with a gift - peace of mind and heart.  ....”  (John 14: 26-27)

Delbert said something that I wrote down. He said, “can you allow the Holy Spirit to convict you, lead you, guide you and use you to encourage others?  The Spirit of Truth will convict, will humble you and will give you Joy and Life!!  Everything that you do HAS to glorify the Father!!  Are you able to live life and bring honor and glory to the God, the way that you are living today?

Part FOUR:
After we left our first service at Eastview, we went to our kids church, where we are joining them in a course called Sacred Parenting.  We want to be a blessing to our grandkids, so this is part of attending this with our kids.  ANYHOW ... 
As I sat there, and listened to how we can parent (or now in our case, how we can grandparent) with either two approaches - 1) Child-centered approach or “God-centered”.  The second approach is the one we should seek - as it is the one wherein we are God-honoring in the way we raise children who really are HIS Children first, before they were ours!  We are called to bear and raise children for the glory of God.  And how when we raise children using a God-centered approach - as Gary Thomas says (he is the writer of Sacred Parenting) “We live in the midst of holy teachers.  Sometimes they spit up on themselves or us.  Sometimes they throw tantrums.  Sometimes they cuddle us and kiss us and love us.  In the good and bad they mold our hearts, shape our souls, and invite us to experience God in newer and deeper ways.”  Sacred Parenting, Participants Guide, page 29)

SO to summarize - what does a nightmare, Delbert's sermon, and a parenting class have in common???

This post, while being vague about what it is I “gave” to God again in confession - I just have to say that I know we all struggle with stuff that we need to give up over and over again - and we all have stuff!!  Big stuff - little stuff - in between stuff - stuff that we give up and it keeps coming back !!  This is all about dying to self right?  I know that I need to die to self daily and sometimes well, it doesn’t happen, and the old nature sometimes feels like it is just hiding/crouching to jump back into my life!!  ANYHOW ... I have had the niggling feeling (if that is a word) that all of this is part of something whole that God is wanting me to see.  This is my take on things.

First of all - about dreams ... I do not always remember my dreams.  I do not always have dreams that mean anything.  However - there are times when I feel like my dreams are about something. I have to say the dream unnerved me.  Actually to the point that going to church, it was still kind of hanging over me.  I was trying to “make sense” of it somehow.

Delbert’s concluding remarks in his sermon -  “can you allow the Holy Spirit to convict you, lead you, guide you and use you to encourage others?  The Spirit of Truth will convict, will humble you and will give you Joy and Life!!  Everything that you do HAS to glorify the Father!!  Are you able to live life and bring honor and glory to the God, the way that you are living today?”  Well - those words  made me actually sit up and I think it was then that I realized that the tree branch in the dream was likely not a branch but a ROOT and it represented the thing in my life that I gave to the Lord again last night. It was a big root, and very beautiful looking with all of its little roots coming from it.  Isn't that just like "sin" - sometimes we don't think it is sin - because it doesn't look bad, and perhaps it is often has an alluring effect on us, or captures our attention.  Let’s face it - we talk about cutting out something at the root of it.  We all know what roots can do to foundations when the root goes growing undetected, and then causes cracks etc. And the fact that in my dream, the huge thing was thrown in to us while we were unsuspecting/oblivious/asleep seemed to make me think of the subtleness of some things in my life - that don't seem too bad - but perhaps are just not good to do or think or be involved in.  And the part of the dream where I realized the door was locked - and yet someone had come in and thrown it at us, and left - unnoticed, made me think that perhaps it is not someone else throwing these things in, but that it is stuff in me that I need to clean up.

And then, going to the parenting ss class just reiterated the need to be living a live that was God-honoring so that my children/grandchildren can see Jesus through me - and that HE will ultimately get the glory.

It felt like the parts all came together - and that they all underscored the other - and it all made sense.  And it doesn’t matter really what my struggle is with (don’t worry, it is pretty common, and not anything illegal in case you are worried about me!) BUT the thing is (sin is sin - regardless of how bad we think it is, or how acceptable) I need to cut the root out - once and for all - and let God take it - and live a life of freedom out of obedience and love for the Lord.  

Maybe this makes no sense to anyone else but me!!! But hey - what does a nightmare - Delbert’s sermon and a parenting class have to do with it?  Everything!!  It makes sense - and I know that God uses many ways to get our attention, and well - He has mine.

O Lord God - I continue to give you my life - my all - I want to keep laying down self - so that you can fill me Holy Spirit with your might and your power.  I want to live freely in you - and to be an obedient child of yours!  I want to live a life wherein others can see you, and can smell the fragrance of the Holy Spirit wthin me.  O Lord - I praise you for who you are - for what you are doing - and for how you continue to make yourself known to me - and Holy Spirit - for your ability to convict, guide and give Joy and LIFE.  Thank you Father for being the great I AM.  Thank you Jesus - for dying for me - and covering me with grace.  Thank you Holy Spirit for being my helper, and advocate and for your power at work within me.  I praise you Lord God!!  Amen.